Trans Fats

I feel like I’m turning into some sort of food crusader. Well hopefully I can actually make a difference. Let me start out with some facts.

  • Artificial trans fat significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.[1]
  • Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. [1]
  • Healthy people should aim for less than 2 g a day of trans fat. [2]
  • Those at risk for cardiovascular disease should have LESS.

So, aside from say, radioactive cabbage, trans fat is probably the worst thing you can eat. Dr. Walter Willett, the Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, calls trans fat a “toxic substance.”

No, I’m not saying eliminating trans fat will solve America’s heart disease crisis, but I think it would help a lot. This is an issue dear to me because my grandpa suffered from a stroke. It changed his life. Thankfully he was able to still live a long, albeit simple, life after that. My dad has metabolic syndrome, a “group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.” If you know anyone in your family with cardiovascular disease, this issue applies to you too.

And even though my dad has this and tries to avoid trans fat, he used to still go out and buy foods with large amounts of trans fat in them. Why? Obviously he wasn’t checking nutrition labels. If it’s true that the majority of American’s don’t even know how to read a nutrition label, this creates an even bigger problem. [3] People trust food to nourish them, not hurt them. Another issue is that restaurants aren’t required to even get the nutrition facts for the food they serve, so there’s no way to check for trans fats even if you wanted to.

A government ban would be a simple solution to the problem. In Tiburon, CA, New York City, Philadelphia, and a sprinkling of other cities across America, they have banned it. This would be the best way to go about it, but in these times it probably wouldn’t be welcome with the extra bureaucracy, enforcement, and all that tax raising jazz a ban would include.

So don’t ban it. We don’t have to. If enough people stop buying these foods, and enough people speak up about it, the companies will take trans fat out themselves.

The best way to avoid trans fat is to eat whole and unprocessed foods you’ve made yourself! Veggies and fruits, whole grains, lean meat, ya know, all that stuff that people have been saying for years. And while there is a small amount of trans fat found in nature, early research shows it may actually be beneficial. [4]

Not everyone can do that, though. Like I still love me some coffee cake for breakfast. So you have to read the labels! Particularly baked goods like pastries, pies, and cakes, fried foods, and fast food. I even found trans fat in Ghiradelli Chocolate. Unbelievable. I love chocolate but I literally couldn’t finish eating my piece. Gross. Labels are allowed to write 0 g per serving if it actually has less than .5 g (thanks for caring for us instead of listening to large company lobbyists, FDA!),  so check the ingredients and avoid anything with hydrogenated oil. Can you believe Oreo’s used to have trans fat? This is food children eat! Check if restaurants provide nutrition info, and if not ask what kind of oil they use to fry foods in. Thankfully those in Texas don’t have to worry about this, because it’s banned in restaurants. Bakeries and grocery stores are exempt, though.

Most importantly, you have to speak up. Please tell others, especially those you care about. Send them this blog post and the links below. Contact companies. I love HEB but when I started reading the labels of the HEB brand baked goods I enjoyed, like the aforementioned coffee cake, I was astonished to see 2.5 g of trans fat per serving. I usually ate at least 2 servings just for breakfast, then maybe another two for a dessert after lunch or dinner. That’s 10 grams in one day! I’m not sure about other grocery stores but I suspect it’s the same. So I emailed them and asked them to take the trans fat out of their goods. You should too (http://www.heb.com/contact-us/contact-us.jsp).

For more info on what trans fat does to you and how to avoid it, check out these links.

What are your thoughts on this issue?
Is a ban or just education the best way to fix it?

Ghetto Works Cited
[1] Valentina Remig, Barry Franklin, Simeon Margolis, Georgia Kostas, Theresa Nece, James C. Street, Trans Fats in America: A Review of Their Use, Consumption, Health Implications, and Regulation, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 110, Issue 4, April 2010, Pages 585-592, ISSN 0002-8223, DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.024.
[2] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp
[3] Making the Most of Nutrition Facts Labels. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter [serial online]. December 2006;24(10):4-5. Available from: SPORTDiscus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 14, 2011.
[4] Trans fat sources differ in effects. Food technology [0015-6639] Nachay yr:2008 vol:62 iss:5 pg:13 -14

***Update Jun 15th***

I emailed Ghirardelli about the trans fat I found, and this is the response I got

“Dear Ms. Payne,
In response to your inquiry, we are currently looking into an alternative to removing the partially hydrogenated oils without changing the flavor of our fillings.

Thank you for contacting Ghirardelli Chocolate.

Kind regards,
Consumer Service
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company”

So happy to make a difference!

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2 Responses to Trans Fats

  1. K. Keenan says:

    I am concerned about this issue as well. Children eat so many cupcakes at school and birthday parties with loads of partially hydrogenated oils. So unnecessary and so unhealthy for them. A good cake can be made from more wholesome ingredients.

    • Sarah @ Eat Live Austin says:

      So true. I know in Texas they are trying to limit junk food in schools and are even trying to eliminate trans fat. Not sure if it passed or not.

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