What a Fat Debacle: Saturated and Trans Fatty Acids Effect on Health and the Future of Food Manufacturing Processes
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The recommended consumption of fat has been changed multiple times by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans in the past decade due to expanding nutrition knowledge. Not only the amount of fat, but the type of fat in the American diet is considered for recommendations to health and food production. Saturated fats in general have long been shown to contribute to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity. In response to consumers’ demands for healthier food products, food manufacturers started using the hydrogenation process to lower the saturated fat content of foods. However, research on health implications and subsequent policy changes of these trans fatty acids, such as listing trans fat content on food label nutrition facts, led the same food companies to re-evaluate the hydrogenation process, or production of trans fat, and begin using alternatives to partially hydrogenated oils. Fifteen food companies were contacted through their websites and surveyed about what kinds of oils and/or methods they used to replace the previously used partially hydrogenated oils in their food products to maintain standards for taste and texture. This research and literature review reveals that food companies are back to using saturated fats and tropical oils, especially coconut oil, instead of the cheap trans fats in their products. Contradicting facts on saturated fats and coconut oil are further explored, with the emphasis on the beneficial functions of coconut oil. Putting research in perspective, the future of food manufacturing processes is dependent on continued research on the health implications and differences between these types of fats in the American diet.