Feature Archive

The Race for Trans-Fat Alternatives

With the FDA asking food companies to label trans-fat content, the race is on to come up with a healthier new alternative. But will the result be any better -- or healthier?

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

Trans fatty acids. Hard to believe these three little words could launch a snack food revolution. But that's exactly what's happening as fast-food makers scramble to come up with viable alternatives for the once highly prized partially hydrogenated oils -- the source of most dietary trans fat.

The reason for the race: an FDA ruling. As evidence began mounting that trans fats were detrimental to heart health, the FDA ruled that beginning in 2006 food manufacturers will have to reveal the amount of trans fat in their products.

As a result, companies are not only working to reduce the amounts found in many snack and convenience foods, but many are also looking to replace trans fats entirely. But that, say experts, may be easier said than done.

Americans Love Trans Fat

"We don't have good substitutions for these oils -- at least not available right now. And it's not going to be easy to replace all the ways in which these fats contribute to the convenience foods that we, as a nation, have come to rely on, " says nutritionist Lona Sandon, Med,RD/LD, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.