Ray Formanek, Jr.

Until recently, about the only way you could determine if artery-clogging trans fats were part of your diet was to look carefully at the ingredient list on the food package. If the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” were among the ingredients, trans fat was part of your diet.

Most trans fats in food are formed when oils are put through a process called hydrogenation. The chemical makeup of fatty acids is altered during hydrogenation, and hydrogenated liquid oils act more like their saturated fat counterparts.

Hydrogenated oils last longer without turning rancid, and can be used to make products such as shortenings and hard stick margarine.

Unfortunately, hydrogenation has a downside.

Research done over the past decade has indicated that trans fat acts much like saturated fat in the cardiovascular system. It raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” kind of cholesterol, and lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” type of cholesterol.

In July, the FDA announced that it would begin requiring manufacturers to include the amount of trans fat in the labeling of their products. Under the labeling role, the amount of trans fat contained in a food will be required to appear just under the amount of saturated fat on the Nutrition Facts label. Some manufacturers are already providing this information voluntarily. For more on trans fat and the steps the FDA is taking to ensure that consumers can make healthy choices when it comes to their nutrition needs, see our cover story, “Revealing Trans Fats,” beginning on page 20.

Generic drags are copies of brand-name drugs and available in both prescription and over-the-counter forms. At roughly one-third the cost of brand-name medications, generics can mean big savings for consumers.

Generic medications must pass FDA review before they are marketed. And FDA experts say that generics have an important role to play in the health care arena. For more on generic medications and their impact on health care costs, see our feature story titled “Greater Access to Generic Drags” on page 12.

Clinical trials–the testing of new products and treatments on people–are an integral part of new product development. The FDA requires such trials and reviews the results before approving new products for marketing. The FDA is committed to protecting those who participate in the trials, which often provide the answers on whether a potential treatment should be approved for wider use. For more on clinical trials and the safeguards in place to protect participants, see our feature story “Inside Clinical Trials: Testing Medical Products in People,” beginning on page 30.

Ray Formanek Jr.


COPYRIGHT 2003 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group