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Researcher Files Lawsuit vs. FDA After His Petition Calling for Ban on Artificial Trans Fats Was Ignored

Trans Fat

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Fred Kummerow filed a petition to ban synthetic trans fats with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009
  • The FDA did not issue a final response, so Dr. Kummerow has filed a lawsuit against them for failing to ban synthetic trans fats as well as their delay in responding to the original petition
  • Research has shown that heart disease is often the result of synthetic trans fat deposited in the veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage
  • Many processed foods on the market still contain trans fats; to avoid them, skip processed foods or check the ingredients and look for partially hydrogenated oil. If the product lists this ingredient, it contains trans fat.

By Dr. Mercola

In 2009, Dr. Fred Kummerow, who has studied heart disease for more than 60 years, filed a citizen petition with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a ban on synthetic trans fats.1

In the petition, he noted that heart disease is often the result of trans fat deposited in veins and arteries, which can cause sudden death due to blockage. He stated:

"Trans fat calcifies both the arteries and veins and causes blood clots. Trans fat leads to the reduction of pro stacyclin that is needed to prevent blood clots in the arteries. A blood clot in any of the coronary arteries can result in sudden death."

The FDA is required to respond to such petitions within 180 days, but Dr. Kummerow has yet to receive a final response even four years later. So, he's taking matters a step further …

FDA Slammed with Lawsuit for Ignoring Petition to Ban Artificial Trans Fats

Dr. Kummerow, now 98, has filed a lawsuit against the FDA, which alleges that the agency's failure to ban partially hydrogenated oils (which contain synthetic trans fats) along with their unreasonable delay in responding to his 2009 petition, violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits the sale of foods containing poisonous or deleterious substances, and an extensive body of research has linked synthetic trans fats to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and even violent behavior.

The FDA has not commented on the pending lawsuit, although Dr. Kummerow pointed out that it would be simple for the FDA to ban synthetic trans fats while leaving natural trans fats, which may actually have health benefits, unregulated.

The FDA has a history of siding with industry, however, and so far has caved to industry pressure in allowing synthetic trans fats to remain on the market -- despite their proven, and significant, risks to public health.

Why Are Trans Fats so Deadly?

Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during food processing in order to make it solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods appear to remain fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and also have a less greasy feel.

Trans fats are common in fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts -- as well as cookies, pastries and crackers. Food manufacturers love them because they're cheap and they significantly reduce perishability and remain stable even at room temperature. But these completely unnatural man-made fats cause dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level. Studies have linked trans fats to:

Cancer: They interfere with enzymes your body uses to fight cancer Diabetes: They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes
Decreased immune function: They reduce your immune response Problems with reproduction: They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones
Trans fats interfere with your body's use of beneficial omega-3 fats Heart disease: Trans fats can cause major clogging of your arteries. (Among women with underlying coronary heart disease, eating trans fats increased the risk of sudden cardiac arrest three-fold)
Obesity Asthma
Alzheimer's disease Aggressive and violent behavior
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Progress Is Slowing in the Removal of Trans Fats from Foods

After it became widespread knowledge that trans fats are dangerous, the industry responded by reformulating many products. It's estimated that 66 percent of foods that formerly contained trans fats have been reformulated, although one study suggested that many synthetic trans-fat–laden foods still remain on the market.2 The researchers concluded:

"Some US products and food manufacturers have made progress in reducing TFA [trans fatty acids], but substantial variation exists by food type and by parent company, and overall progress has significantly slowed over time.  Because TFA consumption is harmful even at low levels, our results emphasize the need for continued efforts toward reformulating or discontinuing foods to eliminate PHVO [partially hydrogenated vegetable oils]."

Even if a product claims to be free from trans fats, it may actually contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. If you eat a few servings, you're quickly ingesting a physiologically significant amount of this deadly fat. So to truly avoid trans fats, you need to read the label and look for more than just 0 grams of trans fat. Check the ingredients and look for partially hydrogenated oil. If the product lists this ingredient, it contains trans fat. It's important to keep your intake of trans fat as low as possible, if you eat it at all, as very small amounts pose health risks. In fact, increasing your daily consumption of trans fats from 2 grams to 4.67 grams increases your risk of heart disease by 30 percent!3

Trans Fats' Replacement May Also Be Harmful

It's worth noting that many processed food manufacturers are swapping out trans fats for what's known as interesterified fats. The interesterification process hardens fat, similar to the hydrogenation process, but without producing oils that contain trans fats. The end product, like trans fat, is less likely to go rancid and is stable enough to use to fry foods. However, while the highly industrialized process of interesterification may result in a product that is trans fat-free, that product will still contain chemical residues, hexanes (crude oil derivatives), and other hazardous waste products full of free radicals that cause cell damage.

Studies show that interesterified fat raises your blood glucose and depresses insulin production.4 These conditions are common precursors to diabetes, and can present an even more immediate danger if you already have the disease. Interesterified fats are in virtually all the foods that trans fats are, so by avoiding trans fat, and processed foods in general, you will also avoid interesterified fats. If a processed food product is labeled "0 grams trans-fats" or "no trans-fats" but is made from vegetable oils, you can be certain it probably contains either interesterified fats or fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, both of which you'll want to avoid in addition to the partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats.

Examples of Healthy Fats to Eat More Of

There's no telling how long it will be before the FDA wisens up and bans synthetic trans fats from the market… if they ever do. So when it comes to fats, remember the simple ground rule, that natural, not man-made, is best. This includes saturated fats found in animal products as well as natural trans fats like trans vaccenic acid (VA) -- a natural animal omega-7 fat found in dairy and beef products – which can actually reduce risk factors associated with heart disease, diabetes and obesity.5 The tips that follow can help ensure you're eating the right fats for your health. You can also use the chart at the end of the article to help you select healthy fats.

  • Use organic butter preferably made from raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads. Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
  • Use coconut oil for cooking. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits. (Remember that olive oil should be used COLD, drizzled over salad or fish, for example, not to cook with.)
  • Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce your modified fat intake, as it will teach you to focus on healthy whole foods instead of processed junk food.
  • To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw nuts, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil.

Examples of healthy natural fats include:

Olives and Olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk
Raw nuts, such as almonds or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados
Grass-fed meats Unprocessed palm oil Unheated organic nut oils

+ Sources and References