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'Much Healthier Food'

“This study should alleviate concerns that most food manufacturers and restaurants would simply switch to a shortening high in saturated fat when they reformulated their products without trans fat,” Mozaffarian says. “In only a small handful of baked goods, more saturated fat was added than trans fat subtracted following reformulation. Still, because a gram of trans fat is more harmful than a gram of saturated fat, even those changes represented relative improvements. In the majority of products, trans fat was reduced or eliminated without corresponding increases in saturated fat. In the case of reformulated restaurant foods, not only was trans fat largely eliminated, but saturated fat also was reduced -- making for a much healthier food.”

The researchers said additional steps could be taken to further improve the U.S. food supply. For example, while cutting trans and saturated fats reduces fat content, replacing those fats with healthier polyunsaturated or monosaturated fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, fish, and some vegetables, could help maximize health benefits.

“This paper demonstrates that the U.S. food industry has been generally responsible in replacing partially hydrogenated oils with more healthful oils,” says study co-author Michael Jacobson, PhD, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “That should pave the way for the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils from the food supply. The agency could do that quite easily by stating that it no longer considers partially hydrogenated oil to be ‘generally recognized as safe,’ and give companies a year or two to switch to healthier oils.”

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