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Goodbye Trans Fats (Again)

Most foods containing high percentages of unhealthy trans fatty acids (TFAs) have already disappeared from the shelves of U.S. supermarkets, but on June 16, 2015 the FDA gave food manufacturers a three-year deadline to get rid of the rest of them. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and diabetes, they can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol and have more recently been found to impair memory. In tests given to men age 20 to 45 – the more TFAs in their diets, the worse their performance on the exams. Although trans fat consumption has declined dramatically over the past decade or so, they’re still present in about 37 percent of the food on the market including crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods, microwave popcorn and other snack foods, coffee creamers, and refrigerated dough products such as biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. The FDA has estimated that removing the remaining TFAs from foods could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease annually and would save about $140 billion over 20 years in health care and other costs. 

My take: It’s about time. In 2013 the FDA ruled that trans fats are not "generally recognized as safe" leading many manufacturers to remove them from product formulations.

In part because of their known health risks, the FDA requires that trans fats be listed on the labels of foods that contain them under the "Total Fat" heading. Trace levels of TFAs are found naturally in milk fat (created by bacterial action in the stomachs of cows), but, even in butter, the amounts are so small that they are probably not a worry. But as far as the artificially created TFAs in other foods are concerned, don’t wait for 2018. Avoid products containing trans fat now.