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    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Public Health Gone Amok: The non-raison d'etre of the trans-fat ban :

    Well, in this new age of public health, authorities are using regulation to try to curb chronic diseases such as heart ailments, diabetes and cancer -- much the way they did decades ago to wipe out infectious disease by mandating inoculations, chlorinating water and making such diseases reportable to the government.

    The problem is that chronic diseases are primarily linked to lifestyle factors -- and government intervention into people's lifestyles is not only intrusive, it simply won't work.

    That is, the Board of Health is acting as if TFAs were an imminent health threat -- like E.coli in spinach. They're not.

    Second, as the hyperbole about TFAs has escalated -- New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently claimed, absurdly, that TFAs in Girl Scout cookies have killed more Americans than al Qaeda -- physicians and scientists have largely remained mute on the topic. Silence is interpreted as agreement -- and the momentum for bans builds.

    Third, the food industry has turned the fear of TFAs into a brilliant marketing strategy -- trumpeting the "No Trans Fats" claim on labels. Unsuspecting customers will conclude the products are healthier -- and maybe even think they are reduced in calories -- when in fact there are no health benefits. In fact, all fats, saturated or not, contain 9 calories per gram. There are no caloric savings from replacing TFAs with other fats.

    posted by Sydney on 10/13/2006 08:26:00 AM 4 comments


    The current crop of cooking oils were put in use as a response to concerns about the health issues with animal based cooking fats. The automobile was seen as an answer to the pollution problem in NYC due to horse manure.

    I personally believe we have more important things to worry about than the cooking oil used in a fast food joint.

    Steve Lucas

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:57 AM  

    Lucas, second your opinion!

    By Anonymous Dara, at 12:16 PM  

    Legislating lifestyle is a failed strategy. The policy makers should be involved only to the extent of educating people about options. The society would be better off if they spend more time on issues dealing with economy and security.

    By Anonymous docwrite, at 10:53 PM  

    Well, I'm of a mixed mind about this. Evidently, it's easy enough to change to trans-fat free products, and they do cause a rise in lipid levels, albeit temporary. Do people really eat trans fats often enough to cause a problem? We don't know the answer to this question. It reminds me of all the ruckus surrounding SIL on Pap tests- much ado about pathology that turned out not to be a problem in most people- but it's taken years (decades?) for the Bethesda system to reflect this.

    I heard an NPR segment on trans-fats, and it was funny how the moderator thought it sounded like a fine idea until she taste-tested the products. However, it seems trivial to worry about taste if trans-fats really are a problem. And Oreo successfully navigated the change without losing their most-favored-cookie status!

    I'll admit I am worried about how far we will go to legislate lifestyle, though evidently the Brits aren't.They have the real food police!

    By Anonymous dani, at 2:36 AM  

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