On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will begin a gradual and total elimination of trans fats in the American food system. Trans fats, widely considered to be the worst possible kind of fat for heart health, is most commonly found in processed foods—from cookies to frozen pizza. Once thought of as a safe flavor and texture enhancer, trans fat is now linked to life-threatening disease and even death.
While growing awareness about trans fats has led to a sharp decline in their use over the past decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern" according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Hamburg said that phasing these toxic fats out completely could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.
After a comment period of two months, the FDA will decide on a timeline for trans fat elimination. "We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, told the AP. Still, he says, "industry has demonstrated that it is by and large feasible to do."
We all know that fat in general isn't necessarily bad for us. In fact the body needs good fats to support itself. But trans fats are bad in every sense of the word. "Like saturated fats, trans fats raise LDL 'bad' cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. But unlike saturated fats, trans fats lower HDL 'good' cholesterol and may do more damage. The American Heart Association advises limiting saturated fat consumption to less than 7% of daily calories and trans fat consumption to less than 1%," explains WebMD.
Health advocacy groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, say a six to 12 month phase-out period should be more than enough time to get trans fats off the shelves.
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