Girl Planting seeds

The FDA Steps Up And Bans Trans Fats

trans-fatsIt is difficult for me to heap praise on the FDA, considering their less than-stellar-history of approving drugs for the market only to later have them removed due to their toxic or in some cases  fatal affects (Viox for instance).   However, praise is in order in view of the FDAs recent announcement to ban trans fats from foods by 2015. 


Trans fats are a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) and are basically man-made fats.   They are created by adding hydrogen atoms into liquid oils, which turns them into a more solid form. These cheap or, as some refer to them “artificial oils” are used in processed food to improve texture, shelf life and flavor.  Trans fats are found in margarines and vegetable shortening and are used in a whole host of processed foods including donuts, packaged cookies, cereals, crackers, granola bars, chips, salad dressings, French fries, frozen pizzas, and fried chicken. 


In addition to clogging arteries, trans fats also raise the bad type of cholesterol, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL).  Another little known fact about these fake fats is that they cause a stiffness in our cell’s fatty membrane. So when our diets are rich in trans fats, it is difficult for these stiff cell membranes to accept nutrients or eliminate cellular debris or toxins efficiently.  


Fortunately, as a result of research on heart disease, as well as work done by activists (most noteworthy:  NYC  Mayor, Michael Bloomberg) and health advocacy groups such as The Center for Science in the Public Interest (who first petitioned the FDA to remove these fats nine years ago), there has been a significant decline in their use.  In 2006 new nutrition labeling rules required manufacturers to list the trans fat content of food. Since that time, it is estimated that 80% of the food industry has moved away from using these fats. (The FDA states that there has been a decrease of trans fats among Americans from 4.6gms per day in 2003 to one gram in 2012.)    Now with the new stricter and more comprehensive proposed ban (expected to be implemented by 2015), these man made health destroying fats will be out of our food supply for good. 


According to Sally Fallon, Director of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of the book: Nourishing Traditions, the Seed and Oil Industry (and their very influential lobbyists) was very persuasive in the 1970s, they convinced the public, the medical profession and the government to steer away from saturated fats contained in butter and eggs, and instead use hydrogenated oils. In 1990, the National Institute of Health began recommending we use margarine and other partially hydrogenated oils.


Although these man made fats were initially celebrated as healthier alternatives, we now know those health claims were false.   Trans fats from PHO cause an estimated 20,000 cases of heart disease per year as well as 7,000 deaths. 

As a country, we have a long way to go before we see a major reversal in heart disease, diabetes and obesity. To significantly impact our health, in addition to removing artificial fats, we also need to return to a diet similar to that of our ancestors.  A diet that focuses on fresh vegetables, legumes, grass- fed protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and includes a major reduction in our sugar and white flour intake is the key to this transition.  But for the moment, I’d like to celebrate this very big step in the right direction.   


According to Michael Jacobson, the director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group that initially petitioned the FDA to ban trans fats almost a decade ago, “ the move is one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."


maureenmcdonnellMaureen McDonnellhas been a nutritionally-oriented RN for 36 years (in the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.)   She is the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now Conferences, and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (  Maureen is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in children’s health.  Presently, she serves as the Medical Coordinator for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer in New Mexico. 




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