New York Times On Banning Trans Fat

One of the more lively debates going on in the health world right now is whether or not banning trans fat is a good idea. Personally, I’m torn—one day I think it’s a smart move and the next, I’m not so sure. Michael Mason of The New York Times examines the issue:
Trans fats aren’t good for you, that much most experts agree on. But whether banning them is a necessary — or even highly beneficial — solution is a subject of some debate. Some scientists say it might not save as many lives as one would expect. And for preparing certain kinds of foods, there are few alternatives besides the saturated fats that have long been high on the list of artery-clogging foods.
I admit its pretty mind blowing to consider saturated fat a “healthy” alternative to anything. Especially if you know Dr. Fuhrman’s position on saturated fat, here it is from Eat to Live:
Some naturally occurring fats are called saturated fats because all the carbon are single bonds. These fats are solid at room temperature and are generally recognized as a significant cause of both heart disease and cancer. Saturated fats are found mainly in meat, fowl, eggs, and dairy. Coconut and palm oil are largely saturated and are also not desirable. The foods with the most saturated fat are butter, cream, and cheese.
Now back to Mason’s article. One of the more poignant items—that makes me think the ban is a good idea—are the statistics generated by Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition researcher at Harvard University. According to his calculations a ban on trans fat could prevent up to 228,000 hearts attacks in this country each year.

That’s a pretty striking number. If Willett is right, who knows how many of those 228,000 heart attacks would have been fatal. But it's a massive tragedy by any standard. Consider how many died in the World Trade Center attacks (2,973), Pearl Harbor (2,400), Hurricane Katrina (1,836), and The Vietnam War (58,000).

When you think about it like this it’s hard to stand against the ban. But America is the land of personal freedoms, telling people what they can and cannot eat, doesn’t seem right. The Center for Consumer Freedom would agree. Remember them from last week’s post? They’re the Washington-based group against the ban:
The Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom is spending $125,000 to put the commercial in heavy rotation this week on CNN and the Fox News Channel.

Sarah Longwell from the center said the spot shows food being snapped from consumers' hands because "that is exactly what the New York City Board of Health proposes to do."
I’m still on the fence about this, although later today I’ll probably have an opinion one way, and more than likely tomorrow I’ll feel differently. What do you think?
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G-mama - October 12, 2006 4:03 PM

As it states on their site:

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.

The growing cabal of "food cops," health care enforcers, militant activists, meddling bureaucrats, and violent radicals who think they know "what's best for you" are pushing against our basic freedoms. We're here to push back.

Hardly an unbiased group- and most likely not taking public health into account but rather $.

My point is, I wouldn't let this group influence my opinion about food safety issues any more than I would the CEO of MacDonalds. There are legitimate concerns about banning certain foods, but more than likely the reasons given by the CCF would not stand up to ethical scrutiny.

Jackie Danicki - October 21, 2006 7:40 PM

There is no way that banning people from choosing what food to put in their mouths stands up to 'ethical scrutiny,' G-Mama. Unless you don't care much for personal freedom.

Look, the way you get people to take responsibility for their health is not to revoke the degree to which they must take responsibility for their health. It is sad that so many people choose to eat themselves to death - which they could do without trans-fats, as it happens - but the ugly truth is that it is their choice to make.

My choices are what led me to being very overweight, and my choices have brought me down by more than 100 pounds. No amount of interfering from the government would have made a difference. How many people do you know who are obese because of trans-fats alone? Or is it more realistic to say that people become obese because they don't have active lifestyles, they have sedentary existences, and they overeat in huge quantities? It is the latter, of course. Unless you plan to start forcing people to exercise by law, under threat of jail and fines, it makes no sense to start using jail and fines to dictate what food people can eat.

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