Trans fats are produced during the process of hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated oils are used in food production to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life of many processed foods. Partially hydrogenated oils have been used in food production for quite some time. It was in 1911 when Protor & Gamble began using partially hydrogenated oils in the shortening Crisco. The hydrogenation process, which results in trans fats, made it possible to stabilize oil.
The Health Concerns
Unfortunately, trans fats come with many health concerns. They increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while decreasing HDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats are linked to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), required food manufacturers to report trans fat content on food labels. Research shows this did help Americans to reduce their trans fat intake from an average of 4.6 grams per day in 2006 to 1 gram per day on average in 2012.
Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)
Any substance added to food is considered a food additive and must be reviewed and approved by the FDA. This review and approval does not have to take place if the food additive is generally recognized as safe under the conditions of its intended use among qualified experts. Up until now, trans fats have been on the “Generally Recognized As Safe” list.
Recently the FDA announced that partially hydrogenated oils (i.e. the primary source of trans fats) are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. This preliminary determination is based on current research findings and reviews of expert scientific panels. This means the FDA has begun a 60-day comment period to collect more data, as well as determine how much time is needed for food manufacturers to eliminate the use of partially hydrogenated oils in production.
What You Can Do
You don’t need to wait for food manufactures to change their methods. You can read food labels now to eliminate trans fats from your diet.
Here are some foods that may contain trans fats:
- Cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, breads, pie crusts, and pizza dough
- Stick margarine and vegetable shortening
- Cake mix, pancake mix, and chocolate drink mix
- Fried foods, such as French fries, chicken nuggets, donuts, and hard taco shells
- Snack foods, such as candy, microwave popcorn, and chips
- Frozen dinners
Check your cupboards for these items and read the food label. Does the item contain trans fat? Pitch and remember the next time you shop to check for a different brand that does not contain trans fat.
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