As I’m sure many of you have heard, the FDA has decided to ban trans fats in our foods. While many have scarcely commented on this laudable action, I think we should take a step back and look at the implications of this.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that has undergone a process called hydrogenation in a process that dates back to the early 20th century. One of the earliest trans fats to enter the American marketplace was Crisco, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil which appeared in 1911. The process allowed the creation of fats that resisted rancidity and had incredibly long shelf lives.
The concern regarding the damaging effects of trans fats on the coronary arteries began to surface as early as 1956, but nevertheless, various trans fat “butter substitutes” were heavily promoted until only quite recently.
The data linking trans fats to coronary artery disease is profound. So much so that these days we can in fact all say, “I can believe it’s not butter!”
I think the FDA’s decision is breathtaking in its implication. Obviously there was great pushback by industry, but in the end, sound science and the sense of “doing the right thing” seems to have prevailed. What the public needs to recognize is that while trans fats are clearly dangerous, we shouldn’t castigate all fats. Wonderful natural, unmodified fats are so vital for general health and brain health in particular.