We know the body needs healthy fats to run at an optimal level. The problem is the standard American diet contains far too many trans fats and artificial ingredients.
According to the 2007 “Topics in Clinical Nutrition” survey, the average American eats 79 grams of dietary fat per day — with 5.3 grams of that coming from trans fats and rising. Additionally, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that the average American consumes around 19 percent of his or her calories from saturated and trans fats, whereas the recommended intake is less than 10 percent of total calories for saturated fats and as little as possible from trans fats.
Now, the truth about saturated fat is that it can be healthy when eaten in moderation and when consuming the proper types of saturated fat, such as MCT oil. Trans fats, however, are downright dangerous.
The Truth About Trans Fats
There are two types of trans fats: naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Some animals naturally produce trans fats in their guts, and food from these animals can contain small quantities of these fats. However, most trans fats in our diets are in the form of artificial trans fats, which are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. These genetically modified cooking oils are not healthy, and they can even become rancid oils that cause even more health problems.
Trans fats are consumed at way too high of quantities in the U.S., and the health effects are staggering. They raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, lower good (HDL) cholesterol levels, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and raise the risk of diabetes. In addition, there “no known nutritional benefits of trans fatty acids and clear adverse metabolic consequences,” according the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Research from Harvard Medical School that included controlled trials and observational studies found that trans fatty acid consumption from hydrogenated oils “adversely affects multiple cardiovascular risk factors and contributes significantly to increased risk of coronary heart disease events.” Those findings are corroborated in research published in the Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, studies published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research and countless others.
Trans fats also contribute to obesity and diabetes. Research from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that a trans fats diet induces abdominal obesity and changes in insulin sensitivity in monkeys, and it’s believed to do the same in humans.
It’s no wonder the U.S. has a health crisis on its hands, particularly in regard to obesity and heart disease, given how many trans fats we consume.
ALDI’s Trans Fats Decision
The good news is the American public is becoming more and more aware about the dangers of trans fats, and increasingly, Americans are concerned about what they’re putting in their bodies.
This is nowhere more evident than in grocery store chain ALDI’s decision this month to remove trans fats, artificial colors and MSG from its grocery stores by the end of 2015.
In an Oct. 1 press release, ALDI CEO Jason Hart said:
At ALDI, we are dedicated to the well-being of our customers by providing high-quality groceries at the lowest possible prices and offering foods shoppers can feel good about serving their families. Our decision to remove these ingredients from all of our exclusive brand foods delivers on our ongoing commitment to meet the evolving preferences of our customers. Since more than 90 percent of the products we sell are under our exclusive brands, eliminating these ingredients will have a real impact on the over 30 million people who shop in our stores.
In addition — in the same release — food industry analyst Phil Lempert applauded ALDI’s decision, stating:
Today’s shoppers are more involved with food than ever before. They want to know everything about their food and the companies that supply them — especially as it relates to ingredients and the impact on their families. ALDI is leading the supermarket industry in rightly responding to the science that shows the implications of these ingredients, and meeting the needs of the increasingly savvy consumers who don’t want artificial or potentially harmful ingredients in the products they buy.
ALDI actually began removing MSG, hydrogenated oils, trans fats and food colorings in 2014.
This official announcement comes on the heels of the U.S. banning trans fats from the U.S. food supply over the next three years following a ruling by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA determined …
that there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids (IP-TFA) are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in human food. This action responds, in part, to citizen petitions we received, and we base our determination on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat.
Under the ruling, food companies have until June 2018 to comply, removing hydrogenated oils and trans fats from their products, or they can petition to gain approval for partially hydrogenated oils — but only if they provide sufficient data that those oils are not harmful.
This is a huge step for nutrition in America, and it happened in part due to concerns from everyday people about the food and drinks they consume. That message has been heard loud and clear by both the FDA and food companies.
As it turns out, many large food suppliers — such as ConAgra, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, General Mills and even controversial Monsanto — have been moving away from many such products over the past five to 10 years.
This decision could be a major step in making the U.S. a healthier, more nutritious nation. The health effects could be immense, including lowering cholesterol naturally, preventing diabetes with nutrition and treating obesity naturally among Americans.
We are still a long ways away from becoming as healthy as other cultures around the globe like those living in the blue zones, but the decision by ALDI and the FDA to remove trans fats shows we are moving in the right direction.