(NaturalNews) Contrary to fears that moves to phase out the use of trans fats would just lead to the replacement of one problem ingredient with another, a new study shows that the overall level of trans fats in foods has dropped without a corresponding increase in saturated fat.
"Companies almost always can reformulate their food to have a healthier balance of fats," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The CSPI and a Harvard researcher reviewed the fat content of 83 packaged and restaurant foods that had undergone reformulation since 2006, when the government began mandating that trans fat content be listed on nutritional labels. In the same year, New York City imposed a ban on the use of the fats in restaurants.
Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils, are produced by adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats in order to give them a longer shelf life and make them more solid at room temperature. They have been conclusively proven, however, to significantly increase the risk of heart disease and death, and the body is unable to use them for nutrition the way it can with normal fats.
Products reviewed in the study included margarines, baked goods, and junk and fast foods. Fat content was determined using FDA databases, nutrition labels and industry-supplied data.
The researchers found that nearly every product reviewed had reduced its trans fat content to zero or nearly zero. In addition, 90 percent of restaurant foods and 65 percent of supermarket foods had either lowered their saturated fat content, left it unchanged, or increased it only slightly.
Not all products had undergone healthy makeovers, however. For example, while the trans fat content of Entenmanns's Rich Frosted Donuts dropped from 5 grams per serving to zero, saturated fat content increased from 5 grams to 13.
And at the end of the day, said David Heber of the University of California-Los Angeles, there's only so far junk food can move in the direction of health.
"Trans fat or not, a doughnut is still a doughnut," Heber said.