Consumer Reports Magazine, October 2015
In June of 2015, the Food and Drug Administration announced that manufacturer’s have until 2018 to rid their products of the primary source of trans fats, PHO’s (partially hydrogenated oils). It’s an important step that the agency estimates will save over $140 billion in heath care and other costs nationwide over 20 years. Here’s the potential impact on your kitchen cabinet and your health:
The trouble with trans fat PHO’s are created by adding hydrogen to ve getable oil, making it solid at room temperature and less likely yo spoil. Like saturated fat, trans fat not only increases your blood levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) but also lowers HDL (good cholesterol). It may also cause inflammation and lead to heart attack and stroke. Research has also found links to type 2 diabetes and problems with memory and other cognitive functions.
Right now the FDA permits food manufacturer’s to label foods containing less than .05 grams of trans fats per serving as containing 0 grams, which means that certain products purporting to be trans fats-free may, in fact, have some. By June 2018, PHO’s cannot even be included as an ingredient. That will change the makeup of thousands of products whose manufacturer’s had been rounding down on nutrition labels.
The New Rule and your Taste Buds:
If you haven't yet noticed a change, it probably means very little: many processed food manufacturers have already dropped PHO’s from their products without any noticeable difference in flavor or texture. (Between 2003 and 2012 American’s trans-fat consumption fell by 78%, according to an FDA estimate.
The New Rule and Your Health:
Early research yields hopeful results: One European study estimated that a ban on trans-fats in restaurants in New York city and six counties resulted in 12 fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease per $100,00 people and a health care savings of $3 million per 100,00 people each year.
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, some companies will switch to alternatives such as palm oil and palm kernel oil- either alone or combined with liquid canola, sunflower or soybean oil. Both palm kernel oils are h igh in saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol levels. Some companies are developing soybeans-through conventional crossbreeding as well as by genetic engineering in a lab-that produce produce trans-fat free oil that is lower in saturated fat than most typical trans-fat alternatives. But GMO’s may lead to a variety of health and environmental problems, our experts say, and will carry no GMO labeling.
Trans Fat’s Long Goodbye:
Companies can petition for a specific use of PHO’s in their products post June 2018, as long as the additive meets the FDA safety standards. For now your best bet is to keep checking ingredients lists for PHO’s and of course, to avoid processed, high fat foods in general- as well as limiting beef, cheese and full fat dairy products, where small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats will still be found.