Sunday, November 12, 2006

Boycott Trans Fat!

Gerald Levert’s untimely death at 40 has prompted me to write this blog entry. I don’t claim to know what the underlying causes of his heart attack were but it doesn’t feel like a huge leap to assume his longtime weight problems contributed to his health problems. Sadly, Levert had recently been taping a reality show in which he would lose weight with twelve female fans. His efforts to improve his health apparently were too little, too late.

New information about Nutrition
There’s a lot of new information about nutrition and how it relates to our health. For instance, dietary cholesterol may be less dangerous than consuming foods high in saturated fats (which come mostly from animal sources and some tropical oils). This is because saturated fats cause our livers to generate more cholesterol in our bodies. When the body has more cholesterol than it needs, the excess is deposited in our artery walls leading to the formation of plaque which can clog our blood vessels and cause heart attacks and strokes.

A Killer in our Midst
The most alarming new information is about a silent killer in our midst: Trans-Fatty Acids (TFA) or “trans fats”. While trans fats are found in small amounts in animal products, we consume most of our trans fats from commercially manufactured hydrogenated oils – the result of hydrogenating oils and fat to achieve longer shelf lives for processed foods and to increase the stability of oils used for frying. Trans fats have been shown to increase LDL (or “bad cholesterol”) and reduce HDL (or “good cholesterol”) in such a dramatic way that the National Academy of Science has concluded there is no safe level for trans fat consumption. Researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health estimate that trans fat contributes to 30,000 deaths a year (I think this is a way conservative number).

Profits over Health
Given that trans fats are so hazardous, why are food companies adding them to their products? It’s simply about increasing profits. Longer shelf lives means products can have later sell-by dates. More stable cooking oils means you can use the same vat of cooking oil to make french fries all day long.

Some Good News
There’s been some progress recently to rid our foods of trans fats. In 2003, Denmark passed a law effectively banning trans fat. In this country, the FDA this year started requiring the listing of trans fat content on the nutrition panel of all packaged foods. New York City and Chicago are proposing health regulations to limit the use of trans fat in restaurant food. Wendy’s say they have eliminated trans fat from their fries. KFC just announced they will eliminate trans fat from all their food except their biscuits by April next year.

Call to Action!
So what can you do? Boycott food chains that are still serving up this poison. McDonald’s promised to eliminate trans fat by 2003 but they are still dragging their feet. Their excuse? They haven’t found a suitable replacement. This flies in the face of reason given McDonald’s has managed to eliminate trans fat in Denmark. Unfortunately, big corporations like McDonald’s will continue to put profits over your health until they have an economic incentive to change. While lawsuits and regulations will help, the best remedy is an informed consumer that chooses to say no to trans fat!

Further Information
Here are some links to start your own research:
· American Heart Association Trans Fat Overview
· Harvard School of Public Health: Hidden Trans Fats Exposed
· Wikipedia Article on Trans Fat
· BanTransFats.com

3 comments:

PaPa said...

An excellent posting and an excellent blog. Your article on trans fat is well presented. I hope you don't mind but I'm going to take the liberty to post it to my blog, in its entirety. Should you feel that it is inappropriate, please advise and I'll remove it. I too, want to rid us of all trans fat! It's amazing just what our government regulatory agencies allow in the foods we eat and drink. And we thought we had a problem with drugs, medications and prescribed health care. Move over doctors and pharmaceutical companies, you got company, food supply and providers! Take care and GOD Bless.

Giza said...

Agree with the intention. Fat is bad. Also agree with the personal boycott approach.

The hint of government involvement (Denmark,NYC,Chicago) makes me cringe.

Building a robotic Nanny to hide the bad things from us sounds good at first. After it conquers trans fat it can then move on to cigarettes, alcohol, big cars, guns, clothing, dancing, music, books, science, ....

Personal responsibility over legislation.

Hugh said...

Giza,

I understand your concern and would agree that consumer awareness is the right place to start. But I think it's a real stretch to extrapolate regulation of hazardous products like trans fat and cigarettes to music and dancing!