In a surprise move today, McDonald's(NYSE: MCD) announced it will alter the formula for its famous fried food -- including its often-imitated, never-duplicated french fries. The company will change to a cooking oil that's 50% lower in trans fatty acids and 167% higher in polyunsaturated fat, both of which are better for your heart. The total number of calories and grams of fat will remain the same, and the taste impact -- if noticeable at all -- is said to be minimal.

Why risk changing wildly popular products? It's simple: The world's No. 1 fast-food chain is succumbing to growing pressure from groups and individuals about the unnecessary health risks associated with its fare. Much of the credit goes to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the nonprofit organization that has been after McDonald's nuggets for years for unnecessarily contributing to America's obesity problem. The group has also produced data on Chinese, Mexican, and other restaurant fare, and publishes a list of the best and worst fast foods.

For all the criticism the CSPI receives, it looks like it's actually making some headway. ''This doesn't turn french fries into a health food,'' says spokesperson Margot Wootan in USA Today, ''but McDonald's should be applauded for taking a step forward.''

And applaud we will... especially since the company is not stopping here. Its eventual goal is to eliminate all trans fatty acids from its oil. That's especially "heart"-ening considering that millions of people chow down at Mickey D's every day.

We're not being Pollyannaish here. We know the health impact will be minimal. But we're encouraged by the new trend, especially since it's a winning situation for both the business and the consumer.... and we can expect other restaurants to jump into the same frying pan.