Ban on Trans Fats

New food label requirements
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According to a wealth of research, trans fats are linked to a number of related maladies, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sudden death from cardiac causes.

On June 16, 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  announced that it will move to ban trans fats from processed foods, a move which is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks each year.

FDA’s Ban

According to the FDA statement, the agency has determined “that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in human food.” The FDA further stated that food manufacturers will have three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils from consumer products.

The American Heart Association’s blog notes that partially hydrogenated oils are a major source of trans fats, and the FDA ban could prevent 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and up to 7,000 heart-related deaths per year.

The American Heart Association, along with many other critics of trans fats, has been working to reduce and eliminate partially hydrogenated oils from foods since the early 1990s.

Many Bad Effects of Trans Fats on the Human Body

Trans fats have been found to cause molecular changes at the level of the fat cell, or adipocyte, itself.

Specifically, trans fats can cause the adipocytes to release more free fatty acids into the bloodstream, which then can go on to cause atherosclerosis and plaque formation in the coronary arteries, for example.

Trans fats can also cause adipocytes to display greater inflammatory responses, contributing to overall inflammation within the body, another factor that has been linked to a variety of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Trans fats also increase inflammation through the action of monocytes or macrophages, which are white blood cells that are part of the body’s natural immune system. Another way to think of this: trans fats cause our body’s immune system to respond as if it were under an attack, producing inflammation in response to this perceived attack.

Trans fats also act detrimentally at the level of the liver cell, or hepatocyte. Via this unfavorable impact on the hepatocyte, they cause an increase in LDL cholesterol (also known as the “bad” cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL cholesterol (also known as the “good” cholesterol).

Finally, trans fats cause problems directly in the blood vessels, by affecting the cells that line blood vessel walls, known as endothelial cells. By causing dysfunction in these cells, they set up the vascular system for a host of medical issues, including high blood pressure (hypertension), atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.

Health Impact of Trans Fat Bans

Experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere have noted that policy measures that eliminate trans fats in processed foods can be considered a population-based intervention that would help address one of the dietary risk factors for chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that the complete elimination of artificial trans fats from the diet of Americans could prevent as many as 7,000 coronary deaths and 20,000 nonfatal coronary events.

The country of Denmark banned the use of partially hydrogenated oils in 2003, and several other countries have done the same. In the United States, New York City famously passed a trans-fat ban for restaurants in 2006. The state of California did so in 2008.


Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, et al. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 2006; 354:1601-1613.

Hunter DJ and Reddy KS. Noncommunicable diseases. N Engl J Med 2013; 369:1336-1343.

Brownell KD and Pomeranz JL. Perspective: The trans-fat ban—food regulation and long-term health. N Engl J Med 2014; 370:1773-1775.

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