Why the FDA Banning Trans Fats May Not be a Good Thing

June 16, 2015


Trans fats have been around for over 100 years. Crisco was first made in 1911, and was almost entirely made of hydrogenated oils (=trans fats). Their use expanded pretty continuously, and they appeared in all kinds of foods– I remember going through the grocery store one night, and finding them in Raisin Bran Crunch and Fiber One cereals, Healthy Choice microwave dinners, as well as in the foods you would expect to find them, such as desserts and processed foods. Research started showing negative effects of trans fats on cardiac health– specifically linking them to heart attacks– in the 1990s. It wasn’t until 2006 that the FDA created requirements that food products had to state on the label if they had trans fats in them. As more and more evidence has shown the severity of the threat to people’s health from trans fats, the FDA removed the “Generally Recognized as Safe” classification from trans fats in 2013. So, two years ago, the FDA recognized that trans fats are not safe, but yet it was only yesterday the news broke that the FDA said they are starting the process of banning them from our food supply. According to FDA, food manufacturers will have three years to take them out of their products. So, trans fats will be around until at least 2018.

There is actually more bad news that is not, well, in the news. While the word has been spreading the past few years that trans fats are bad, some food manufacturers have given in to public pressure, and started changing their foods. They started taking out the trans fats in their products, and replacing them with mono- and diglycerides. You may have seen these listed in the ingredients for many foods you buy at the store. And guess what: they have been around since the 1970s, there has been almost no current research on their food safety, and they are “Generally Recognized as Safe” by the FDA— at least, at expected levels of consumption…. in the 1970s. Of course, consumption will skyrocket as their use skyrockets to replace trans fats. And guess what may be contained in mono- and diglycerides…. Trans fats!

So, this move by the FDA to ban trans fats is something, but if it in any way makes people in the US feel more secure that they are being protected from harmful substances– I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anti-government doomsdayer– but please understand how incredibly unprepared the FDA is to fight food companies. Now maybe people will stop examining boxes they buy at the grocery store (if they even checked in the first place), figuring the FDA is making food companies make their products more healthy, so they think they can stop worrying. The truth is that nothing is really going to change that much. Mono and diglycerides are something to avoid, too! Just another example that if you can’t pronounce it, you likely shouldn’t be eating it. Please, please, read labels of foods you buy at the store. Opt for healthy, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and healthy protein sources. Remember: healthy, clean eating can be delicious, too!

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