West Virginia University experts say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s mandate to remove artificial trans fats from the country’s food supply by June 2018 is a long overdue move in the right direction for public health.
Kristin McCartney, a dietician and public health specialist for WVU Extension, says the ban has been a progressive move over the last decade in response to consumer awareness about the harmful effects of trans fats on health and wellness.
“The consumption of trans fats has been declining since the early 2000s” said McCartney. “Research on trans fats didn’t start until the late 1990s, so consumers previously didn’t understand the serious risk they pose to cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health and obesity levels.”
In response to that research, the FDA required in 2006 that nutritional labels on packaged foods disclose the trans fat content, leading many companies to eliminate the fats.
Artificial trans fat – a form of cyst fat that is hydrogenated to chemically alter it – is consistently linked with coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death globally. There are some naturally-occurring forms of trans fats in milk and meat fats, but researchers have less concern over those forms than industrially-produced forms of the fat.
Artificial forms of trans fats are found in popular foods like baked goods, ice cream, coffee creamers, margarine, French fries, fried chicken and frozen pizzas—essentially, they have been added to any foods that are processed or commercially stored.
According to Adam Burda, assistant professor of Human Nutrition and Foods in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design director of the graduate dietetic internship program, consumers shouldn’t be concerned about the taste of these foods being altered once trans fats are removed from their composition.
“Most consumers won’t notice the taste,” said Burda. “It will be a minimalistic change to the texture and overall taste since the addition of trans fats in foods has been decreasing over the last decade-plus.”
Burda – a fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its national spokesperson – says food manufacturers are likely prepared for the change and will adjust accordingly.
“Food manufacturers must adapt and overcome if they want to sell their product,” said Burda. “They can turn to healthier ways to promote taste that will increase the nutrient composition of their foods.”
McCartney applauds the FDA for enforcing a regulation that helps to shift the responsibility from the consumer to the food industry to make healthier choices.
“It’s encouraging when the industry takes responsibility for Americans maintaining healthier diets and reducing instances of disease and obesity,” said McCartney. “By eliminating it across the board, it’s going to help everyone.”
Burda and McCartney are available to discuss the FDA’s removal of trans fats from the U.S. food supply and matters related to health, nutrition and diet-related topics.
West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVUToday.
CONTACT: Adam Burda; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Kristin McCartney; WVU Extension
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