While United States government food regulators struggle to eliminate partially the presence of ‘trans fats” in processed foods, Costa Rica has managed to reduce its consumption without being forced to issue legislation.

This was explained by Rafael Monge, a researcher on the subject, for the Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (Inciens) – Costa Rican Institute for Research and Education on Nutrition and Health.

According to Monge, back in 1996 developed in the country was a health project that demonstrated the dangers of trans fats in the arteries and heart.

The project revealed that the main source of these fats was soybean oil. Since then, Costa Rica’s Health officials coordinated with the food industry to gradually modify the product.

The researcher pointed out that there is no national data on the consumption of these fats, however, a small scale study was conducted and it showed a reduction.

In the study, Monge say that consumption of trans fats by adolescents in 1996 showed that 60% consumed 4% of energy derived from these fats, when the recommended was less than 1%.

In 2006, the study showed that the consumption by 60% of the group was down to 2% and the 40% to the less than the recommended 1%.

The sample study was of 350 adolescents in both years.

Many of the foods that can contain trans fats are often regarded by as comfort food. Dr. Lisa Martin, a George Washington University cardiologist, says a lot of people eat a fair amount of these foods.

“Cookies, cakes, pies and pastries, a lot of those pre-made foods have the trans fat to increase the shelf life,” said Martin.

The U.S. FDA food safety director Dennis Keefe says studies on the potential benefits show why trans fats should be phased out.

“Information provided by recognized scientific bodies such as the Institute of Medicine which have indicated that and recommended that consumption of trans fats should be reduced to as close to zero as possible,” said Keefe.

Artificial trans fats have been used in restaurants and in processed foods to improve the texture, flavour and shelf life of foods.

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.