The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed a ban on trans fats, a major contributor to heart disease.
Though trans fats have already been widely eliminated from many food products, they are still used in many processed foods, including microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, icing, margarine and coffee creamer. Trans fats also occur naturally in some foods.
The FDA estimates that reducing the use of trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths associated with heart disease a year, according to a Reuters report.
If the FDA’s proposal passes, trans fats would be classified as an additive that would require approval before they could be used in foods.
Last year Americans consumed about one gram of trans fat per day, a drop from 4.6 grams in 2006, according to a New York Times report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that blood levels of trans fatty acids in white American adults decreased by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009.
Saturated fats found in meat and dairy products have long been recognised as a detriment to cardiac health. But it is now understood that trans fats are even more devastating to heart and vascular health.
Both saturated fats and trans fats contain cholesterol. Cholesterol is shuttled through the bloodstream by lipoproteins. Low density lipoproteins (LDLs) deposit some of their cholesterol on vessel walls. But high density lipoproteins (HDLs) speed through the bloodstream, scraping away plaque and picking up LDLs to be metabolised in the liver.
Like saturated fats, trans fats heighten the level of LDLs in circulation. But trans fats also decrease the level of HDLs through an unknown mechanism.
Some nutritionists are concerned that, with the ban on trans fats, saturated fats may make a return to the market, according to a New York Times report.