The Obama administration is ordering food companies to phase out the use of heart-clogging trans fats over the next three years, calling them a threat to public health.
The move will remove artificial trans fats from the food supply almost entirely. Consumers aren’t likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administration says the move will reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.
Scientists say there are no health benefits to the fats, which are used in processing food and in restaurants, usually to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. They can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils.
Once a staple of the American diet — think shortening and microwave popcorn — most artificial trans fats are already gone. The FDA says that between 2003 and 2012, consumer trans fat consumption decreased an estimated 78 percent as food companies have used other kinds of oils to replace them.