Fight Against Trans Fats

By
Published: December 16, 2013

In 1957, a fledgling nutrition scientist at the University of Illinois persuaded a hospital to give him samples of arteries from patients who had died of heart attacks.

Fred Kummerow in 1953.

When he analyzed them, he made a startling discovery. Not surprisingly, the diseased arteries were filled with fat — but it was a specific kind of fat. The artificial fatty acids called trans fats, which come from the hydrogen-treated oils used in processed foods like margarine, had crowded out other types of fatty acids.

The scientist, Fred Kummerow, followed up with a study that found troubling amounts of artery-clogging plaque in pigs given a diet heavy in artificial fats. He became a pioneer of trans-fat research, one of the first scientists to assert a link between heart disease and processed foods.

It would be more than three decades before those findings were widely accepted — and five decades before the Food and Drug Administration decided that trans fats should be eliminated from the food supply, as it proposed in a rule issued last month.

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