Question of the Week

August 11, 2003

"FDA unveils trans fat regulations
Food makers required to display exact levels of artery clogger
WASHINGTON, July 9. Trans fat hasn't gotten the attention its infamous cousin, saturated fat, earned through warnings and labels. That's about to change: After 10 years of debate, the government is requiring food labels to reveal exact levels of the artery clogger."

The issue of trans fatty acids first came to the attention of many with a lawsuit that was filed earlier this year...

"A lawsuit seeking to ban Kraft Foods from selling Oreos to children because the chocolate-cream cookies are allegedly unhealthy will be dropped, the San Francisco lawyer who filed the suit said Wednesday. Stephen Joseph's suit alleged that Oreos are unhealthy because they contain trans fat, which the National Academy of Sciences has linked to heart disease....The ingredient is used in thousands and thousands of products. In an interview with CNN Monday, Joseph said, 'I am probably full of hydrogenated fat because until two years ago I didn't know about it. I resent the fact that I have been eating that stuff all my life.'"

In response to the publicity, the Oreo cookies website has a statement:

"In light of recent news reports, we wanted to share some information about trans fat and Oreo cookies. At Kraft, we know the importance of good nutrition, and we are committed to helping people make healthy food

They have also included a Q and A about trans fats. (If you choose to visit their website for more information, please keep in mind while reading the answers that they were written by those who are selling Oreos, as well as many other Nabisco and Kraft products.)

"Trans fats give foods the texture people expect and help foods stay fresh longer than alternative ingredients. Developing alternative ingredients with the same taste, texture and freshness characteristics as trans fats but with better nutrition has been a challenge throughout the food industry...."

The FDA also has a Q and A site. When comparing the sites, it is apparent that some of the same questions are asked, with some the same information given in the answers. It is also apparent that the two sites have different objectives when providing the information.

"Trans fatty acids (or 'trans fat') are fats found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, baked goods, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, salad dressings, and many processed foods.... It's important to know about trans fat because there is a direct, proven relationship between diets high in trans fat content and LDL ('bad') cholesterol levels and, therefore, an increased risk of coronaryheart disease � a leading cause of death in the US....Saturated fats and trans fat have bad effects on cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil) have good effects....Trans fat while pervasive in many of the foods we eat is not 'essential' to any healthy diet."

So now you know. Many of the foods you eat likely contain trans fatty acids. You can even know how many trans fats you are getting when you eat that serving of Oreos...

"Like most baked goods, Oreo cookies do contain some trans fat. A serving of our regular Oreo cookies -- which is three cookies -- contains 7 grams of fat, 1.5 of which is saturated fat, and 2.5 of which is trans fat. A comparable serving of our reduced fat Oreo cookies contains 3.5 grams of fat, including 1 gram of saturated fat and 1 gram of trans fat."

So what will you do with the information once new labels are in place and you have access to how many trans fats are in the foods you eat?

"The additional information will give consumers a more complete picture of fat content in foods -- allowing them to choose foods low in trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, all of which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Reducing the intake of trans fat and saturated fats is recommended by the Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 'We are empowering Americans to make healthier choices about the foods they eat,' Secretary Thompson said. 'By putting trans fat information on food labels, we are making it possible for consumers to make better educated choices to lower their intake of these unhealthy fats and cholesterol. It's just one more way we're helping consumers lead healthier lives.'"

Questions of the Week:
Will knowing how many trans fatty acids are in the foods you eat affect what foods you choose to eat? Why might you change your diet accordingly? Why might you choose not to make changes based upon this new information? Should this information affect your dietary choices? Why or why not?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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