The FDA announced today that it has removed partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, the primary source of trans fats in human diets, from the list of items that fall into the category of “generally recognized as safe.” The move, formally proposed last November, will mean that food makers must remove these fats from any products before three years is up.
Dietary intake of trans fats is strongly linked to coronary heart disease, and studies have linked these fats to tens of thousands of deaths each year in the US. Although the precise mechanism by which they influence the human body isn’t clear, it is clear how they get into the human body in the first place. We put them there.
Fats are primarily composed of a long chain of linked carbon atoms. Many of the fats found in naturally produced oils (like vegetable oil) have a mixture of both double and single bonds between the carbons in this chain. These produce a kink in the molecule, which can take one of two forms: the cis form, where the two sides of the chain end up on the same side of the double bond, or the trans form, where they’re on opposite sides. The vast majority of fats produced by living organisms are in the cis form.
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