TYLER (KYTX) - The Food and Drug Administration has taken the first step to ban trans fats from foods in the United States.
The agency says this move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
The FDA proposal could soon declare partially hydrogenated oils unsafe. Those oils are the source of trans fats.
"A trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to a liquid vegetable oil to make it more solid. So they're used a lot to increase shelf life and change textures," says Trinity Mother Frances Dietitian Lauren Clark. She agrees with the FDA.
"Trans fats increases your risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke," Clark says.
That's something Mother Frances heart patient Barbara Hester has become familiar with.
"I had a heart stent put in in March. One of my veins was 99 percent closed," Hester says.
Hester used to eat lots of trans fats but now things are different.
"I've got to really change now," she says.
Even though there's been a push for years to take trans fats out of foods, you can still find them lurking in a lot of processed foods at your grocery store: like microwaveable or frozen dinners, microwaveable popcorn, and even some brands of hot chocolate and coffee creamer.
In 2006 the FDA made companies list trans fats on food labels, but experts say don't always believe the numbers you see.
"A lot of people don't realize that if food has less than half of a gram in a serving they can put that it's trans fat free. You want to look for the trans fat and you want to look for anything that has zero grams, but just know that if you look down under ingredients, it says partially hydrogenated in front of vegetable oil, that means there could contain up to half of a gram of trans fats," Clark says.
That's the case with lots of pre-packaged baked goods and fried foods. So Clark says take her advice: read those labels.
If the FDA proposal becomes a ban, companies will have to find substitutes for all trans fats.
Health experts are hoping those substitutes will be heart healthy, like canola oil or vegetable oil.