By Caribbean Medical News Staff

In an announcement on October 24th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that they are proposing measures to ban all artificial Trans fats. Should this come to pass after allowing sixty days for public comment and interaction, the FDA insists that heart attacks and other deaths caused by the “artery clogging substance” (Trans fats) will drop dramatically according to Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner.

After thirty years of battling to ban Trans fats, the FDA is hoping that after this public consultation, the low cost and popular Trans fats will be wiped off the menus of the average American. Trans fats occur when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid. Caribbean people often refer to this type of fat as “lard”. It is popular for frying and is cheaper than animal fat like butters and is widely available in margarines.

According to the FDA, trans fats are an” identifiable source for heart disease and possible death”  and the FDA is anxious to drop it from the food supply as the US (and indeed the rest of the Western world) experiences almost pandemic proportions of  Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases like heart disease, diabetes, strokes, obesity and other health issues including obesity.

During this period of public consultation, the FDA will declare that Trans fats are no longer safe. “Safe” is the legal category used by the FDA which permits the use of salt and caffeine, for example.  Health advocates say that scientific evidence shows that Trans fats increase the bad cholesterol and lower the good cholesterol in the body making individuals susceptible to a variety of lifestyle diseases that can also be fatal.

The long time advocacy of health officials led to a rule by the FDA in 2006 requiring that the use of Trans fats be placed on food labels. This caused a seismic shift among especially the fast food chain restaurants in the US, many of which have stopped using Trans fats in their cooking. However, Trans fats still remain in coffee creamers, popcorn (microwaveable), frozen pizzas, a variety of desserts and some sauces.

The public took notice and Trans fats intake dropped among Americans. The Caribbean which is experiencing severe issues with NCD and many health advocates are recommending the use of olive oil and other oils which do not contain Trans fats in an effort to curtail their use. From 2000 – 2009, the blood levels of Trans fats in Caucasian adults in the US had dropped by 58 per cent.


According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, “The artery is still half clogged and this is about preventing people from being exposed to a harmful chemical that most of the time they didn’t even know was there. It’s quite important,”  Dr. Frieden, former New York Health Commissioner, “It’s going to save a huge amount in health care costs and will mean fewer heart attacks , as many as 20 000.”

“Even as little as two or three grams of Trans fats a day can increase the health risk”, he added.

It is interesting to note that that labeling does not always capture Trans fats in all foods and thus the effects of consumption can insidiously creep up on consumers. Some Trans fats occur naturally, however. The FDA proposal to ban Trans fats only applies to those add to foods.

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