The Trans-fat Ban. A Nationwide Step in a Healthier Direction.

credit: Don Partlan, Flickr

credit: Don Partlan, Flickr

In the early- to mid-1900s, the use of trans-fats skyrocketed, because they were easy to use, had a long shelf-life, and were extremely cost effective to produce. And far from making consumers feel deprived of saturated fats, trans-fats gave foods a taste and texture that many craved. It was even believed that trans-fats were a healthy substitute for saturated fat, but over the years evidence has proven that exactly the opposite is true.

As early as the 1950s, rumbles in the scientific community began, wondering if the trans-fats boom was leading to the large increase of coronary artery disease seen across the country. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the potentially negative effects of trans-fats were given serious attention.

Now, in 2014, we’ve reached another milestone. The FDA is removing trans-fats from the Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list—making the unhealthy fats effectively banned. This proposal eliminates the loophole that let manufacturers label their foods as having 0 grams of trans-fats per serving if they contain less than half a gram. With multiple servings, those levels of trans-fats add up, meaning that consumers would be able to eat dangerous levels without even knowing it.

U.S. health officials estimate that banning trans fats would result in 20,000 fewer heart attacks and 7,000 fewer deaths per year from heart disease. Not to mention it could save billions of dollars in medical costs a year.

Some manufacturers, after tweaking their recipes to meet the >0.5 gram–rule, are protesting that now they have to go back and overhaul their process once again, wasting time and money. The FDA is taking 60 days to develop a timetable to roll out the ban, and it will likely be 6 months to a year before all foods are forced to comply.

Fat facts

Trans-fats raise LDL and TGs (bad) and lowers HDL (bad)

Trans-fats are created in a process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid and stable (that’s why they’re also known as “partially hydrogenated.”)  The worst kind of fat, trans-fats only have harmful effects. From the first bite, their effects increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

A small amount of trans-fats is found naturally in foods that are high in saturated fat, like beef, lamb, and butter. It is unclear if naturally-occurring trans-fats have the same negative effects on health—as for now, these remain unaffected by FDA regulation.

Saturated fats raise LDL and TGs (bad) and increases HDL (good)

Since the 1950s, the party-line has been that eating high amounts of saturated fat is less healthy than consuming fats with a lower proportion of saturated fatty acids. The new way of thinking about cholesterol and systemic inflammation calls that old wisdom into question, but for most people with standard diets, it makes sense to keep saturated fats to a minimum.

Unsaturated fats reduce LDL and TG (good) and decrease HDL (bad)

This category of fats includes essential fats that your body needs but can’t make itself, like omega-3s, which you can get from food or supplements. Of course, too much unsaturated fat can be unhealthy, but it has the least negative impact on the lipid profile.

What are your fat stats?

Testing lipid levels is great for understanding baseline cardiovascular health. You can dive even deeper to see your omega fatty acid levels, which when optimized, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and many other inflammatory diseases.

The WellnessFX Omega Panel measures the levels of essential fatty acids in your blood, and tests the ratio of the most healthful omegas (omega-3s) to other omegas (omega-6s).

Eliminating trans-fats and optimizing the levels of omegas in the blood can vastly improve your health. It’s time to find out where you stand.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.