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Not all fats are created equal. There are “good” fats found in foods like salmon, olive oil, and nuts, and “bad” fats found in foods like butter. But the worst fats, and the hardest to avoid, are trans fats. Nearly all trans fats that Americans consume are artificially produced and are difficult to avoid because they are hidden in foods we find in grocery stores and restaurants. We therefore need policies to reduce or eliminate trans fat in these foods and help consumers identify which foods contain trans fat.
Trans fat is the common name for a particular type of fat in use since the 1950's that has been chemically altered, or hydrogenated, so that it will be solid at room temperature. Although trans fat has certain properties that make it well suited to commercial food production, such as greater stability, longer shelf life, and low cost, these advantages are achieved at the expense of human health. Excess trans fat intake is associated with a number of negative health consequences. Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated a strong link between the consumption of trans fat and coronary heart disease. Trans fat intake may also play a role in weight gain and a host of other health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and infertility.
In June 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was phasing trans fats out of the food supply, finalizing a 2013 preliminary determination that partially-hydrogenated oils (PHOs) were no longer generally recognized as safe. Food companies will have three years to remove trans fats from their products. In the meantime, consumers should choose foods that have the lowest amounts of trans fats possible.