You know trans fats, the stuff margarine is made of and that fast food restaurants often drop their fries and doughnuts into? And that increases your risk of heart attack and stroke? Today the Food and Drug Administration announced an important step in getting the ingredient out of the food supply for good. And it’s given you 60 days to comment on whether you think that’s a good idea. We think you should take advantage of the opportunity.
Consumer Reports’ first raised the alarm about the dangers of trans fat in food in 1991. Now, more than 20 years later, the FDA has issued a preliminary determination that artificial trans fat, aka partially hydrogenated fats, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. If the agency takes that step, food manufacturers will have to prove that the ingredient is safe, a step that will likely force them to remove the ingredient from foods.
Trans fat comes from vegetable oils that have additional hydrogen molecules attached to them. The original idea was to give the fat the stability and mouthfeel of butter, but without the cholesterol or saturated fat. As it turned out, trans fat was also less expensive than butter and extended the shelf life of packaged products. But it also turned out to be just as bad, if not worse, for your heart and your health as saturated fats are. Like saturated fat, trans fat raises levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, but it also lowers levels of HDL (good) cholesterol at the same time, so it’s a double whammy on your heart. And it might also cause inflammation, which could pose additional risks to your heart and throughout your body.