The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it is taking steps to further reduce artificial trans fat from processed food. The following Q&A with Institute of Food Technologists President-Elect, Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, CFS explains what consumers need to know about trans fat.

Q: What are trans fats and what do they do?

A: Trans fats are part of partially hydrogenated fats used to help stabilize foods for storage and also create the desired texture and baking properties of foods. Examples include, providing the creaminess in icings and stability in cookies. 

Q: What happens when you take them out?
A: If you use vegetable oil when you make a cookie, the cookie tends to be runny and flat. If you want a nice fluffy cookie, you need to use a solid fat. The problem is we were trying to get away from solid fats because they contain saturated fats. 

Q: Why were trans fats used in the first place?
A: Originally, they were designed to help make food products more healthful as an alternative to saturated fats which we know are not good for cardiovascular disease. Food companies began introducing them into more products, because they help contribute to foods being more stable and lasting longer, and you reduce food waste, so they were very popular.

As people began to realize that the process to transform the oils into fats produced some of these trans fatty acids, they became concerned about the role of these acids in health because they’re not found commonly in nature. Over the years there has been more evidence suggesting that these trans fatty acids may be bad for cardiovascular health as well.

Q: What have companies been doing so far?
A:  So far food companies have been switching out and using more saturated forms of fat: butter, cocoa fat, palm oil, other sources that tend to be more stable and have more of a solid nature.  In some cases, they are completely reformulating the product.

 

More Food Facts

What is CRISPR

CRISPR is a defining feature of the bacterial genetic code and its immune system, functioning as a defense system that bacteria use to protect themselves against attacks from viruses. The acronym “CRISPR” stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, and “GMOs:” Why all the Controversy?

Biotechnology, and the newer methods of genetic modification—genetic engineering and recombinant (r) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and technologies can be very useful in pursuing important improvements in food production and the food supply and doing so much more readily and effectively than previously possible.

The Potential of Blockchain Technology Application in the Food System

The popularity of Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies reached new heights in 2017. Bitcoin is the most prominent in a new type of currency, called cryptocurrency, where transactions are made without an established intermediary (i.e. banks).

More from IFT right arrow

Unlocking the Genomics of Lactic Acid Bacteria

Leading food science researchers discuss advances in lactic acid bacteria, probiotics, fermentation, and CRISPR genome editing that have transformed the fermented foods industry.

Poring Over the Health Benefits of Coffee

Based on recent research, breakfast’s no. 1 sidekick—a cup of coffee—may well be the most important drink of the day.

Research Shines Light on Crop Photosynthesis

As part of the RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) project, a group of international scientists has determined that it’s possible to quickly and efficiently measure the impact of genetically engineered improvements using a process called spectral analysis.

How Blockchain Is Changing the Supply Chain Conversation

Applications of blockchain promise to increase transparency and add efficiencies for the food industry, but adoption of these potentially groundbreaking new technologies will have some limitations.

IFTNEXT

Could a high-fat diet during pregnancy prevent Alzheimer’s?

Animals born to mothers fed a high-fat diet during gestation were protected against brain changes characteristic of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published by researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

Human gut microbes may mitigate the effects of processed food

Formed during the food manufacturing process, Maillard reaction products (MRPs) in processed food can have harmful health effects. A study published in Cell Host & Microbe shows that human gut microbes can break down fructoselysine, a common MRP, into innocuous byproducts.

Soybean compound may protect blood vessels of marijuana consumers

Research indicates that smoking marijuana may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. A recent study has determined that a compound in soybeans may mitigate that risk.