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
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
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.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum