Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are a type of unsaturated fat that can be found naturally in small amounts in some animal-based foods, such as meat and dairy products, but are primarily produced industrially through a process called hydrogenation.
This process adds hydrogen atoms to liquid vegetable oils, which makes them more solid and stable at room temperature. Trans fats are often used in processed foods, such as baked goods, fried foods, and snack foods, because they have a longer shelf life and can enhance flavor and texture.
Trans fats have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems. Unlike other types of fat, trans fats raise levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in the body.
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats, were no longer generally recognized as safe in food, and set a deadline for their removal from processed foods. As a result, many food manufacturers have reformulated their products to eliminate trans fats, and the consumption of trans fats in the United States has significantly decreased in recent years.