4 things you should know about the FDA ban on trans fats

What does it really mean for you?

trans fat blogAfter years of debate in the medical community and the media, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to put its proverbial foot down, announcing in June that partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), the major dietary source of trans fats in processed foods, must be eliminated from all food products by the year 2018. This comes on the heels of a 2006 FDA mandate to include trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label, and a 2013 decision that deemed PHOs no longer “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

Here are 4 things you should know relating to the FDA ban on trans fats:

What Are PHOs?

So what is this stuff anyway? PHOs are artificial trans fats that are widespread in processed foods like refrigerated dough products, fast food, crackers, microwave popcorn, cakes, cookies, pies, coffee creamers and stick margarines. They are attractive to food manufacturers because they prolong shelf life and give a desirable consistency Continue reading

Video: Avoiding harmful fats

Which fats to limit, which to avoid altogether

What’s the difference between saturated and trans fats?

Two types of fats — saturated fats and trans fats — have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and should be limited or avoided altogether.

Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods such as meat and dairy products. These include: fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, cream, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or 2% milk. These foods also contain cholesterol. Baked goods and fried foods can also contain high levels of saturated fats. You should limit saturated fats in your diet.

Trans fats are found in many foods, including baked goods (cakes, cookies and pies), fried foods (fries, fried or breaded chicken) and snacks (chips and crackers), and other foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, traditional vegetable shortening, butter or stick margarine. As the most harmful type of fat, trans fats should be avoided as much as possible.

Sarah Meyers, University of Michigan registered dietitian, says it’s important to read food labels and to use healthier substitutes, such as trans-fat-free margarine or olive oil rather than butter to avoid harmful fats. To reduce your intake of saturated fats, Meyers suggests choosing small servings of lean animal protein and low-fat or fat free-dairy products and cheeses.

Not all fats are unhealthy, though. To learn about fats that are good for you, read our post on healthy fats, which also includes a video featuring U-M dietician Sarah Meyers.


University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.