According to World Health Organization, artificial trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are made when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fats are basically vegetable oil which has an extra hydrogen atom attached to its molecules using industrial processes, resulting in a substance that hardens into solid fat at lower temperatures, as the FDA described them.
However, as the World Health Organization pointed out in their suggestions, many high-income countries have been able to encourage companies to lower or eliminate their trans fat use, while low- to middle-income countries might not have the resources to instigate a ban. They say the "payoff" in improved public health outweighs the costs of using a safer oil. Many dairy and meat products contain trans fats that have also been linked to heart disease.
"Trans fats are a harmful compound that can be removed easily without major cost and without any impact on the quality of the foods", Branca said.
The call to eliminate trans fats follows from the WHO's updated guidelines on fat - already being contested by experts - that were released on May 4. Tom Frieden, president of Resolve to Save Lives.
In the USA, the first trans fatty food to hit the market was Crisco shortening, which went on sale in 1911. Trans fatty foods became increasingly popular beginning in the 1950s, partly because experts at the time thought they were healthier than cooking with butter or lard.
Trans fats increase levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decrease levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transports it to the liver, which secretes it into the bile. They used them in doughnuts, cookies and deep-fried foods.
"A comprehensive approach to tobacco control allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than nearly anyone thought possible", he said, "Now, a similar approach to trans fat can help us make that kind of progress against cardiovascular disease, another of the world's leading causes of preventable death". The same year the FDA required manufacturers to list trans fat content information on food labels.
"The removal of trans fats from the food supply as an additive counts as one of the major public health victories of the last decade", said Laura MacCleery, policy director for the Washington, D.C. -based advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest.