Ding, dong, trans fats are dead!
Up with unctuous butter, flakey lard, and tasty peanut oil--down with nasty trans fats! [NYT]
The New York City Board of Health voted yesterday to adopt a ban on so-called "trans fats" in restaurant food.
As a food fanatic with a passion for public health, I'm delighted that the City has taken a lead on this issue.
A lot of people think that this measure is pure nanny-statism. I disagree.
Trans fats are harmful industrial preservatives. These hydrogenated fats extend shelf-life and facilitate deep frying, but they contribute little or nothing to the taste or texture of food. The world had been deep frying delicious morsels for centuries before Crisco introduced trans fats in the early 1900s. (Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some animal products, but most of the trans fats we eat are made from hydrogenated vegetable oils.)
Trans fats are especially dangerous because they raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels. Saturated fats like lard can increase bad cholesterol (LDL), but a least they don't drive down good cholesterol (HDL).
Prospective epidemiologic studies and case-control studies using adipose tissue analyses support a major role of trans fatty acids (TFA) in risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The magnitude of the association with CHD is considerably stronger than for saturated fat, and is stronger than predicted by the effects of TFA on LDL and HDL cholesterol. The apparent gap between the epidemiologic findings and effects of TFA on LDL:HDL has been bridged, at least in part, by recent metabolic studies showing effects of TFA on inflammatory factors and other indicators of insulin resistance. (Willet WC, Atheroscler Suppl. 2006 May;7(2):5-8.)
In other words, trans fats can interfere with your body's ability to maintain healthy blood lipids and they may also increase the risk of diabetes. Unlike saturated and unsaturated fats, added trans fats are not a healthy part of a balanced diet. They are a dangerous food additive. Companies that cling to trans fats are out to make a quick buck at the consumer's expense.
Substitutes for trans fats are neither rare nor especially expensive. Several countries have already effectively banned trans fats. Denmark's pastry industry, for example, seems to be getting along just fine without hydrogenated soybean oil. Several major corporations have already voluntarily removed trans fats from their products. Kraft recently took the transfats out of Oreos and hundreds of other items.
Thanks to the new rule, I can enjoy the occasional french fry that much more. Kudos, NYC.