FDA's new ban on trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks annually

Zero Trans Fat
The new ban takes effect June 18.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on artificial trans fats will go into effect, restricting U.S. food manufacturers from adding the artery-clogging material to most of their products.

The ban pertains to industrially produced partially hydrogenated oils, not the naturally occurring trans fat that comes from animals such as cows, sheep and goats. Partially hydrogenated oils have typically been made from soybean, cottonseed or other oils to produce a more solid fat, which can be used in processed foods and fast food to give them a longer shelf life and a desirable texture.

Young adults, adolescents and low-income populations tend to have higher intakes of processed foods containing high quantities of trans fat. Because foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils high in trans fat are inexpensive, they are more economical for lower-income consumers.

Consuming high amounts of artificial trans fat increases your risk of coronary heart disease. Consider: A 2 percent reduction in energy from trans fat has been associated with a 23 percent decrease in coronary heart disease. Consuming trans fats increases your “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowers your “good” HDL cholesterol.

High trans fat intakes may be associated with an increase in fat in the abdominal cavity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The FDA estimates that eliminating trans fat from the U.S. food supply would prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease annually.

By taking the aggressive approach of adopting a ban – rather than mandatory labeling or a voluntary approach – the United States has taken a huge stride toward improving our nation’s cardiovascular health.

Shauna Downs, PhD, is an assistant professor of the department of health systems and policy at Rutgers School of Public Health.