FDA to ban artery-clogging trans fats

FDA to ban artery-clogging trans fats
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The FDA announced Thursday that it will require the food industry to gradually phase out trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health.

Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

For 60 years, food manufacturers have used trans fats to increase shelf life and stabilize flavor. It's oil that is chemically treated or hydrogenated to become a solid and it's not good for our heart.

"Trans fats increase the risk for heart disease. They increase the LDL, which is the bad cholesterol and they also lower HDL, which is the good cholesterol. So for individuals, this is not a good thing," said dietician Mary Snell.

The FDA preliminarily determined that trans fats are no longer "generally recognized as safe" for use in food and took the first step in getting them banned from the food supply.

Experts say the elimination of trans fats will have a significant public health impact.

"Decreasing trans fatty acids or removing them completely would eliminate about 20,000 cardiac events a year," said Dr. David Frid, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

The grocery manufacturers responded to the FDA announcement with a statement saying in the last eight years, food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their food products by over 73 percent.

But it's still there and the labels can be misleading. A product that lists zero trans fats could have less than a half gram, which adds up over the course of a day.

"To the consumer, when they are seeing zero trans fats, they are assuming zero, so there is a little bit of misleading information here," Snell said. "But when I look at the ingredient list, I see the words 'partially hydrogenated oil' that tells me that this product contains trans fats, because it is that process of hydrogenation that forms trans fats."

The key is to know how much is too much.

Snell says if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you should limit your trans fat consumption to two grams.

At the store, there are some interesting observations. The amount of trans fats varies depending on the flavoring used in many products. In microwave popcorn, no matter if it says "natural" or "double butter," all have trans fat. The highest we found was five grams.

The FDA isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take.