In 2006, research emerged indicating trans fats could be bad for our health. The FDA is confronting the issue again, and bad fats are under fire
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement that tentatively declared partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), our primary dietary source of trans fats, not safe for use in food. Once the decision is finalized, the use of PHOs for food manufacturing could be phased out over the next few years.
What’s the Deal with Trans Fats?
Trans fatty acids, more commonly known as trans fats, are the result of heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen and another catalyst. This chemical reaction is known as Hydrogenation, hence “partially hydrogenated oils”. Trans fats are used to increase shelf life and maintain flavor, making them a popular ingredient in packaged foods such as chips and crackers, candy, frozen foods, and even fast food.
Known as a “bad fat” because it impacts your health negatively, trans fats indeed take their toll. Shown to raise ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and lower ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), trans fats increase risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
How to Avoid the Threat
When the issue was raised in 2006, the FDA mandated that these trans fats be represented on labels of all packaged foods. Because of this, some manufacturers have already begun to phase out the use of trans fats. However, trans fats can be found in packaged foods that report 0.00 grams of trans fat, since current regulations allow food with less than 0.5 grams per serving to classify that as 0.00 grams. So what is the best way to know if the item contains trans fat? Read the ingredient list! If it includes “partially hydrogenated oils,” it contains traces of bad fat.
It’s important to note that there is such a thing as natural trans fats. These fats are found in meat and other animal products, such as milk, and are shown to be perfectly safe for consumption, because they are not harmful to your health in the same way that man-made trans fats are.