So, finally, after only having declared almost ten years ago that artificial trans fats, better known commercially as partially-hydrogenated oils, are not a healthy part of a daily diet, the federal Food and Drug Administration has moved at its usual pace and declared this substance as “not generally regarded as safe.” (In a statement yesterday, June 16–http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm451237.htm.)
Since first ordering food processors to indicate the presence of trans fats in package labeling back in 2006, the push has been on by health experts of all varieties, not to mention some grassroots politicians, to get rid of them altogether. Evidence has been collected far and wide to demonstrate that partially-hydrogenated oils can have a deleterious effect on the heart. In raising the body’s “bad” LDL cholesterol, and simultaneously lowering its “good” HDL counterpart, the heart is put at greater risk of having an attack. Cardiovascular disease is a major killer of adults, world-wide, and at its all-time peak, thanks to our modern western lifestyle and diet. Trans fatty acids can also put a strain on your liver, which produces natural cholesterol, albeit in much smaller amounts than one would get from a typical American fast-food meal. Clearly, the body has no need of the excessive doses put into it from a diet loaded with such junk that only clogs up the arteries.
Why were trans fats added to so many foods in the first place? Money, as with most situations, is the primary motivator in this case. Food processors discovered that by adding partially-hydrogenated oils, which solidify at room temperatures, their products have a longer shelf life. In other words, when you pick up that junk-food snack cake in a store, it could be old enough to have its own birthday candles and will taste and look the same as the day it was packaged.
Once the government’s ban on this staple of the food industry kicks in (the processors have three years to get rid of the stuff), though, what will replace it? No one, of course, wants to see foods going rancid on shelves as a result. Nor does the public want companies going out of business, adding to the unemployment problem. Above all, the ravenous consumers want their processed foods without any problems, interruptions, or changes in flavor, appearance or price increase. This is where it can get scary: will food chemists come up with some chemical additive—possibly even a new, untried lab creation—to replace trans fats? How else will they prevent spoilage, keep profits coming, and keep the public happy?
The food industry had better move very cautiously on this problem. It would probably be unthinkable to expect them to come up with something revolutionary like merely eliminating the villain and not replacing it at all. Some companies (which will NOT be named herein) already publicly declared their abandonment of the offensive substance in the past few years. Do the taste test yourself, though—do your fries, your snack foods, etc., taste any different? Do they not last as long in your pantry? Could these companies secretly have been reneging on their promises to ban all things hydrogenated? Take a look at the timeline in this link, and make your own decision: http://cspinet.org/transfat/timeline.html.
Those seriously invested in healthy, natural foods will shrug at the new governmental move, most likely, and keep on doing what they have been for ages. They will grow their own foods when possible, and cook their own meals as much as they can. They will control what they eat, make their own decisions, and thumb their noses at the whole artificial food industry.