FDA to Ban Hydrogenated Fats

Trans fats (hydrogenated) – great for shelf life and for boiling French fries but horrible for heart health – will be banned by the Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced this Thursday.

The unhealthy partially hydrogenated oils had been subject of labeling requirements since 2006. This act alone led to a significant decrease in consumption of trans fats as food manufacturers sought healthier options. In 2003, the average American intake of trans fats was 4.6 grams per day, according to the FDA, and that number has fallen to about 1 gram per day in 2012.

But trans fats still exist in some processed foods, from baked goods to microwave popcorn, frozen pizza to ready-to-use frostings. Trans fats also naturally occur in a few foods, such as some meats, and there they will remain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.

Because the mere labeling of trans fats has led food makers to shy away from using it, the biotech industry has taken the hint and put up tens of millions of dollars to oppose labeling of GMO ingredients. That strategy has paid off as initiatives in California in 2012 and in Washington State this week both failed to win approval by voters.

The official regulatory death knell was made possible through the GRAS process – trans fats, the agency has declared, are no longer Generally Recognized As Safe.

“FDA can act when it believes an ingredient is, in fact, not GRAS. And that’s what the agency’s preliminary determination is doing now with partially hydrogenated oils,” the agency noted in its statement today. “A Federal Register notice was published on Nov. 7, 2013, announcing the preliminary determination that PHOs [partially hydrogenated oils] are not GRAS, which includes the opening of a 60-day public comment period.

Studies into the cholesterol-altering properties of trans fats began at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands in 1990. In a series of studies until 2003, researchers discovered that coronary artery disease risk is reduced most effectively when trans fatty acids and saturated fatty acids are replaced with cis unsaturated fatty acids. The largest reduction was seen with unhydrogenated oils, such as canola, soybean and olive oils. These studies helped change the scientific and regulatory consensus on trans fats over the course of two decades.

Editor’s note:

Several studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids help to attenuate the negative health impacts of partially hydrogenated fats.

Weekly Abstracts:

Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

CORONARY HEART DISEASE – Fruits, Vegetables

“Quantity and variety in fruit and vegetable intake and risk of coronary heart disease,” Bhupathiraju SN, Wedick NM, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2013 Oct 2; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA).

In a prospective study involving 71.141 women from the Nurse’s Health Study (1984-2008) and 42,135 men from the Health Professional Follow-Up Study (1986-2008) who were free of diabetes, CVD, and cancer at baseline, whose diet was assessed via a validated questionnaire and updated every 4 years, during which time 2,582 cardiovascular disease cases in women and 3,607 cases in men were identified, after adjustment for dietary and nondietary covariates, those in the highest quintile of fruit and vegetable intake had a 17% lower risk of CHD. Specifically, a higher consumption of citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, beta-carotene, and vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables were associated with a lower risk of CHD. The authors conclude, “Our data suggest that absolute quantity, rather than variety, in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a significantly lower risk of CHD. Nevertheless, consumption of specific fruit and vegetable subgroups was associated with a lower CHD risk.”

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, and Depression

DEPRESSION – Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Inflammation, Oxidative Stress

“Association between erythrocyte n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in patients with and without depression,” Baek D, Park Y, et al, Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2013 Sept 21; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: Department of Food and Nutrition, Hanyang University, Wangsimni-ro 222, Seongdong-gu, Seoul 133-791, South Korea).

In a study involving 80 subjects diagnosed with depression (based on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale Korea version scores of 25 or higher and psychiatrist confirmation) and 80 age- and sex-matched controls without history of depression, lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and higher circulating levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase, superoxide dismutase, interferon-gamma, and nitrotyrosine were found in depressed patients, as compared to controls. In addition, a negative association was found between CES-D-K scores as well as levels of iNOS and TNF-alpha, and the omega-3 index (erythrocyte levels of EPA and DHA). Furthermore, concentrations of iNOS, TNF-alpha, TBARS, and nitrotyrosine were negatively associated with erythrocyte levels of omega-3 PUFAs, and positively associated with erythrocyte levels of omega-6 PUFAs. The authors conclude, “Erythrocyte levels of omega-3 PUFAs were inversely associated with circulating markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in Koreans with and without depression in this case control study.”

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