Trans fats have been at the center of heated debates for some time — receiving even more scrutiny in the last decade as cases of childhood obesity, hypertension and heart disease have been on the rise. In a recently published article in the American Journal of Health Promotion, Eric Brandt of the Case Western University School of Medicine seeks stricter FDA guidelines on this deadly ingredient, which under current regulations can be deceptively mislabeled.
Calculating the high amounts of trans fats regularly over-ingested by consumers and putting them at risk for cardiovascular and other serious diseases, Brandt says, “… the laws need to be changed to reflect the true content of TFs in order to provide the most accurate, science-based information and to improve public health.”
Trans fats are found in animal foods — including meat, dairy and eggs — and can lead to unnaturally high levels of LDL cholesterol, which cause clogged arteries and lead to serious and potentially deadly health problems. Additional unhealthy sources of trans fats come from the ubiquitous artificially reproduced animal fats in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable and palm kernel oils found in everything from breads and breakfast cereals to frozen foods and energy bars. While trans fats have been phased out of some products and are being forced out of others, they are as integral an ingredient to processed foods as the artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, proving a challenge for food scientists in reformulating without trans fats, as they also play a critical role in stabilizing and adding shelf life to processed foods.
Because of current FDA regulations on labeling trans fat content that allow anything below 0.5 grams to be considered “trans fat free,” Brandt suggests that “new legislation should address this problem by requiring food labels to report TF content in .1-gram increments… These parameters will increase awareness of true food TF content, enable informed food choice decisions, and improve public health outcomes.”
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