At a time when many regulations to protect public health have stalled, newly proposed measures by the federal Food and Drug Administration to virtually eliminate artificial trans fats from the American diet come as welcome news. Trans fats clog arteries. The FDA says its rules would prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year.
Originally touted as a healthy alternative to oleomargarine, clear evidence now exists that trans fats raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol. Since 2003, consumption has gone down, following a 2003 FDA order that food labels list trans fats.
But under the labeling requirement, trace amounts of trans fats did not have to be listed. By eating products such as frosting and microwave popcorn, Americans still ingest small amounts of trans fats, which add up, causing a health risk. The weight of scientific evidence points to the conclusion: There is no safe level of trans fats.
The FDA’s latest proposal would plug the loophole, opening arteries. Still, experts warn, Americans consume too much saturated fat in their diets. About 1 percent of Americans’ energy intake is trans fats, while 12 percent comes from saturated fats. Public awareness can help. After New York City banned trans fats, saturated fat consumption rose just modesty, reflecting a growing awareness of the health risk.