Showing trans fats the door

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 at 2:17 p.m.

Q: My mom’s been baking with vegetable shortening for decades. Now I hear that this kind of fat is being banned. Why would they do that to her pie crust after all this time?

— Annie B., New York

A: You’re right, Annie, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it wants to get trans fats out of the American diet — because they’re dangerous. You’re also right that moms like yours (and prepared-food manufacturers) have been making pie crusts, cakes and cookies with partially hydrogenated oils, which is what trans fats are, ever since the vegetable shortening Crisco was introduced in 1911. Consumers today spend more than $10 billion a year on prepared cakes, cupcakes, cookies and brownies. Virtually all those treats contain trans fats.

But in the past 20 years, there’s been a lot of research on the dangers of trans fats, and major health organizations, including the Institute of Medicine, say it’s not smart to consume any. We agree. We’ve both spent countless hours trying to combat the bodily damage that trans fats cause. Dr. Oz has seen what they do to his cardiac patients on a daily basis, and for years Dr. Mike at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center has dealt with obesity-related problems that come in part from a prevalence of trans fats in food. It’s estimated that banning trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks annually. We say it also can reduce the incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, dementia and sexual dysfunction.

We all should be glad the FDA has taken this step. But banning trans fats will take a while; we’re in a 60-day review period, and if the FDA does act, it may take two to five years to phase trans fats out of our food. So, until they’re gone, watch out for partially hydrogenated oils on ingredient lists and trans fats on nutritional labels. Trans fats (one of the Five Food Felons) still are found in some frozen foods, baked goods, frostings, coffee creamers and microwavable popcorns, among other items. And avoid unpackaged baked goods and deep-fried restaurant foods; they’re often made with trans fats.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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