Breaking news in nutrition and health!
In a long-awaited step, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action to remove trans fat from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list!
With the removal, FDA gave the food industry three years to remove all trans fat from foods.
This is tremendous news for any of us who are concerned about their heart health or their brain health – which is, of course, all of us!
But what does it really mean?
Let’s take a look at what the GRAS list is and what evidence led them to this landmark decision.
The GRAS List
The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act references the GRAS in sections 201 and 409. The FDA approves food additives, which include any substances that are intentionally added to our food.
The FDA determines if these substances are safe for its intended use prior to coming to market.
According to the FDA: “The current GRAS list appears as Parts 182, 184, and 186 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It totals hundreds of substances including those that are added to cotton fabrics or paper and paperboard used as food packaging materials.”
If a food contains a substance not on the GRAS list, the FDA will take action to stop the food from reaching the market.
When a liquid fat is hydrogenated (hydrogen bonds formed) the result is a solid oil. This was done in the early 1950’s for use in processed foods and as a cholesterol free butter alternative. Now we have learned that butter is better than trans fat for our heart health.
Hydrogenating or partially hydrogenating oils helps them not only have a more solid texture but they also have a longer shelf life than butter.
Trans fats have been incorporated in many food products besides the stick and tub margarine for which they were originally designed. They can be found in baked goods such as donuts, cakes, and cookies; snack foods including microwave popcorn and crackers; coffee creamers; ready-made cookie dough, biscuits and rolls; frozen foods as well as canned frosting.
In fact, it is reported that as much as 37% of all grocery products contain some trans fat!
You can read the nutrition facts panel to determine if there are trans fats in the foods you use. It is important to note that 0 trans fat or trans fat free does not mean it is free from trans fat because < 0.5 grams per serving can be claimed to be Trans fat free.
Read the ingredient list, looking for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils. It could add up faster than you think, depending on your portion sizes and number of items consumed.
Trans Fat and Your Health
The problem with trans fats that gets them bumped off the GRAS list is that they have been shown to increase plaque in our arteries, leading to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Not only does the buildup in our blood of trans fat affect our heart but can impair our brain function leading to cognitive impairment and memory loss.
Will you taste a difference in some of your ready-made food products? Probably not, as there are alternatives to trans fat that will be used and, in fact, are already being substituted by manufacturers who saw the writing on the wall.
They also have three years to reformulate their food products to something consumers will accept, without the trans fats.
There will still be some trans fat in foods you purchase, in its naturally occurring form, in meat and dairy foods.
The FDA expects that removing this fat from manufacture will result in the reduction of thousands of fatal heart attacks each year. It will be worth some flavor changes to save that many lives.