Filed Under: Food Police Food Scares

Trans Fat: Fact And Fiction

As we told you yesterday, the fight between advocates of consumer freedom and the nanny state’s henchmen is coming to a head in New York City, as local lawmakers have unanimously voiced their support for an outright ban on a popular culinary bogeyman: trans fat. Knowing full well that the modus operandi of these food scolds is to hyperbolize their way into the spotlight, we’ve created a helpful online tool — — to give you the reality, not rhetoric, about trans fats.

Unsurprisingly, the truth about trans fat turns out be significantly more complicated and less scary than the folks at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Big Apple’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggest. Here are just a few of the facts that activists, trial lawyers, and overzealous legislators haven’t told you:

CSPI — one of the ban’s primary advocates — has done a complete “180” on trans fats over the last fifteen years. In the early ’90s, its nutrition activists successfully pressured restaurants to use less saturated fat, while dismissing the health risks associated with trans fats (the only viable replacement).Trans fats make up only 3 percent of the average American diet. The Food and Drug Administration warns against totally eliminating trans fats from your diet, because they are present in so many foods that provide essential nutrients.According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average amount of trans fats eaten by the typical consumer has remained the same since the 1960s. Yet during that time, we’ve gained more than seven years in life expectancy.

We hope will dispel the notion that a trans fat phase-out would be as easy as pie. On last night’s CBS Evening News, which featured clips from two of our ads, medical correspondent Dr. Jon Lapook echoed the sentiments of most trans-fat-ban advocates: “People have to realize they won’t miss it. [The trans fat substitute] tastes exactly the same.”

This is partially true. Many companies have voluntarily eliminated trans fats from their products without any noticeable gustatory change. But partially hydrogenated oil — our primary source of trans fat — has many characteristics that are hard to replicate without using oils that are high in saturated fats (like butter or lard). Partially hydrogenated oil gives pies their characteristic flaky crust and makes margarine easier to spread. It also keeps cookies soft and gives French fries their distinctive crunch and taste. So unless you’re willing to make these foods significantly less tasty or significantly more caloric, legislating trans fats away isn’t a very appetizing idea.

Want some more servings of truth? Check out:

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