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Dramatic Drop in U.S. Trans Fat Levels

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates blood levels of trans fatty acids in U.S. white adults dropped by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009 — a decrease being hailed as huge public health progress.

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The CDC study, published as a letter Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at trans fat levels in people before and after the 2006 Food and Drug Administration mandate requiring trans fat amounts to be listed on Nutrition Facts food labels.

Even before that rule was imposed, the prospect of FDA action and heightened publicity about the risk of heart disease from trans fat spurred a switch to healthier oils.  The CDC study sought to determine the effect of government regulation and those other moves.

Christopher Portier, director of CDC′s National Center for Environmental Health said all the efforts were effective “in reducing blood TFAs (trans fatty acids) and highlight that further reductions in the levels of trans fats must remain an important public health goal.”

“Credit for the reductions in trans fat is shared by many parties,” noted a news release from Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI has petitioned the FDA over trans fat, and also sued restaurants chains that were frying foods in partially hydrogenated oil.  ”New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, California, Montgomery County, MD, and other jurisdictions banned most artificial trans fat from restaurant food.

“The FDA helped greatly by requiring that trans fat be listed on Nutrition Facts labels.  And oil processors, seed developers, and farmers worked hard to produce and market healthier oils for restaurants and food manufacturers to use,” said Jacobson, adding that the dramatic drop  in trans fat levels in people “represents enormous public health progress and is almost certainly preventing thousands of heart attacks and premature deaths each year.”

CSPI says more must be done. In urging the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oil — a major source of trans fat — it has highlighted the foods still loaded with trans fat. It observes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over foods with meat or poultry such as pot pies, has not adopted the FDA’s trans fat labeling rule.

Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are not essential to human health and do not promote good health. High consumption of trans-fatty acids is linked to cardiovascular disease in part because TFAs increase LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), the CDC says. Changing to a diet low in TFAs may lower LDL cholesterol levels, thus decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease.

To avoid trans fat in one’s diet, the CDC recommends:

- Looking for the trans fat listing on the Nutrition Facts label. Comparing brands and choosing the one lowest in trans fat, preferably with no trans fat. 

- Replacing margarine containing trans fat with unsaturated vegetable oil. 

- If you use margarine, choose a soft margarine spread instead of stick margarine. Check your labels to be sure the soft margarine does contain less trans fat. If possible, find one that says zero grams of trans fat.

While the current study looked only at white adults, CDC researchers are also looking at blood TFAs in other adult race/ethnic groups, children and adolescents, Portier said. The trans fat research is a part of a larger National Biomonitoring program, which measures more than 450 environmental chemicals and nutritional indicators in people.

© Food Safety News
  • Steve

    ahhh… success!
    just think of all the beneficial health effects that could accrue with restrictions on marketing junk food to children (for starters) and the de-subsidization of junk foods in general…

  • ian

    Indeed, thank goodness for the nanny-state! You know what would show actual progress?..heart disease rates were actually going down. They aren’t. That’s ok though, we can just continue being government guinea pigs. Maybe just a bit more regulation will make it all better.

  • mrothschild

    Heart disease rates are going down. Of course, heart disease rates vary by age, gender, ethnicity, education levels and region but, overall, 6 percent of U.S. adults had heart disease in 2010, down from 6.7 in 2006. The greatest decrease in heart disease cases has been among whites (from 6.4 percent in 2006 to 5.8 percent in 2010).
    You can read about the decline in prevalence rates here:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6040a1.htm
    Dr. Jing Fang, the CDC epidemiologist who authored the report, said last October when it was published, “In over five years, the prevalence of heart disease has decreased significantly.”
    Heart disease rates remain the highest in the South and among those with the least education.
    In 2010, heart disease and stroke hospitalizations cost more than $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity.

  • Eric Starson

    Great to see we’re eating less, but looks like the only safe intake is zero:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/trans-fat-saturated-fat-and-cholesterol-tolerable-upper-intake-of-zero/

  • Mary Rothschild

    Heart disease rates are going down. Of course, heart disease rates vary by age, gender, ethnicity, education levels and region but, overall, 6 percent of U.S. adults had heart disease in 2010, down from 6.7 in 2006. The greatest decrease in heart disease cases has been among whites (from 6.4 percent in 2006 to 5.8 percent in 2010).
    You can read about the decline in prevalence rates here:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6040a1.htm
    Dr. Jing Fang, the CDC epidemiologist who authored the report, said last October when it was published, “In over five years, the prevalence of heart disease has decreased significantly.”
    Heart disease rates remain the highest in the South and among those with the least education.
    In 2010, heart disease and stroke hospitalizations cost more than $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity.

  • http://www.registrarcorp.com/ Reggie Corpus

    “The FDA helped greatly by requiring that trans fat be listed on Nutrition Facts labels. And oil processors, seed developers, and farmers worked hard to produce and market healthier oils for restaurants and food manufacturers to use.” The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which amended the FFDCA requires most foods to bear specific nutrition and ingredient labeling and requires food, beverage, and dietary supplement labels that bear nutrient content claims and certain health messages to comply with specific requirements. For more information visit http://www.registrarcorp.com/fda-food/labeling/regulations.jsp?lang=en

  • Ed Emken

    AS usual, CPSI makes a big deal out of a relative trivial issue. Remove all the trans from your current diet and watch your LDL cholesterol level decease by less than 5 mg/dl.