Four years ago ... I called for a national ban on partially hydrogenated trans fat, an artificially manufactured, harmful fat that promotes heart disease and diabetes. At that time it was commonly added to commercially prepared fried and baked foods, and average intake was estimated to be 5 to 6 grams per day with an associated 25% increase in heart disease risk in the U.S.
Calls like mine were commonplace among nutrition experts and some politicians, and since that time there has been an increasing amount of legislation at the city, county, and state levels restricting or discouraging the use of trans fats in prepared foods. The FDA has required foods with at least 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to report the amount in the nutrition facts label.
Many (but not all) fast-food chains and major food companies have been reducing or eliminating trans fats from their products, such that there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of trans fat in the food supply.
I’ll guess it is currently about 1/3 of what it was. That is so much better, but there is no safe level. Health experts would like to see it gone altogether. Doing so would result in even greater projected reductions in future heart disease and diabetes.
Walmart, the largest grocer in the U.S., recently announced that they will be eliminating trans fats from their store-brand foods by 2015 (and making other favorable changes, as well), which will directly impact a large number of consumers, and can potentially cause a large ripple effect by inducing competitors to follow suit.
Looking back, I’m glad I took the position I took four years ago. I believe that my family has benefited in a meaningful way from the government actions. I am skeptical that trans fat levels would be nearly as much reduced as they are now without such government intervention. I believe the free market would have produced reductions in trans fats as a result of companies responding to consumer demand, but I do not believe such dramatic and rapid improvements would have occurred during the past four years.
This is important to me in part because my children are now 9, 7 and 4, and the amount of trans fat they have consumed during the past 4 years — during a significant portion of their growth years including brain development etc. — has been directly affected by the speed and magnitude of the changes in food levels. Something that still bothers me is the high amount of trans fats in cake frosting — and my kids seem to attend birthday parties every few weeks. I’m not going to stop my kids from eating frosting at birthday parties. I’m waiting for someone or something to “force” those companies who make frosting to reformulate. All the trans fat they still eat is in situations like this, where they are eating treats or at a restaurant, and nobody is aware of the amount of trans fat in the food. I suspect the same is true for most Americans. We still eat trans fat simply because food companies and restaurants still add it to certain foods.
I am still in favor of a national full ban on artificial trans fats. You can bet that if trans fats caused cancer instead of heart disease and diabetes they would have been banned many years ago. Instead, I predict trans fats will continue to linger in many foods for many years to come, and we will simply tolerate their presence along with many of the other toxins in our environment.
The sad thing is that this particular toxin is so easy to remove from our environment by simply pulling the plug. It is not in America’s best interest to keep it around when such an easy and painless fix is available. Our children will not be impressed when they look back to see their parents and grandparents missed a relatively easy opportunity to have helped them live cleaner, healthier lives. That’s why I have raised this issue again and I hope others who agree with my position can help us finish the job a number of forward-thinking politicians, policy-makers and food company executives have started.
This answer should not be considered medical advice...This answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.
Thanks for your feedback.
6 of 8 found this helpful