Thursday, October 05, 2006

The War on Fat



New York City: The Big Apple. Land of opportunity. Food, everywhere you look. Come December, the city’s restaurant menu may be partially revamped. Last week, health department officials proposed a new code that would force the city’s 20,000 restaurants to limit their use of trans fats, the hydrogenated oils found in French fries, pies, and other processed goods. Establishments, including the city’s umpteen McDonald’s, would have to switch to oils and shortenings that have fewer than .5 grams of trans fat per serving.

Why the proposal? Artery-clogging trans-fats have been linked to heart disease. "New Yorkers are consuming a hazardous, artificial substance without their knowledge or consent," says Health Commissioner, Thomas Frieden. Earlier this year, the FDA began requiring food manufactures to list trans fat content on product labels. Now, New York City restaurateurs are up in arms, arguing that such a ban would affect the taste of menu items and would also drive up costs. New York, which banned smoking in restaurants in 2003, would be the first city to attack trans fats, though Chicago may soon follow suit.

Thoughts?

12 comments:

PalmTreeChick said...

I think it's good, but on the other hand, I don't really think it's the restaurants responsibility to make sure people are eating healthy. People make bad food choices.

I'm all for the change because I'm a "heath freak" anyway, but I think people need to start making healthier food choices overall. Eating "bad" stuff every now and then is okay, but it's a problem when people eat McD's and fried or fatty food all the time.

I think it's a step in the right direction though.

ps22 said...

This is a tough one for me. On one hand, I consider all the information about "intuitive eating" that Dr. S has shared, and I think this plan is just another in the line of "fat-free", "low fat", and "no carb" gimmicks that don't address the larger problem. Yet on the other hand, I think there was a day when we didn't use such disgusting, artificial substances in our food and getting back to more natural eating (whether its an apple or a pie) is a good way to go.

I admit that I do not know about the details or science around this issue to make an informed decision.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings on this. Personally, I choose to avoid trans fats as much as possible. But, I think others should make the choice for themselves. I am in favor of requring disclosure, however. Maybe restaurants that don't use trans fats can indicate that on their menus or by a window sticker saying they are trans fat free. Like maybe one of those circles with line through it saying "trans fats"?. I am getting concerned about all the new regulations and government intrusions- this is a "small" issue but this along with civil rights infringements etc. just makes me queasy. More so than than some greasy french fries would.

Anonymous said...

I am 100% for this. I pay health insurance (as most of us do) and also I pay taxes. Heart disease is a killer. With every death from heart disease and cancer my taxes increase and so does the cost of health insurance. People who don't have health insurance who die from or are sick from heart disease effects us all - financially if no other way.

Eating hydrogenated oils is like eating plastic - our bodies can't digest it and it sits in our insides, clogging us up.

Haley-O said...

I think it's good. A lot of people aren't educated about this stuff and go with what's affordable rather than what's healthy or nourishing. It can only be good, I think. :) Not so great for the restaurants, though....

ps22 said...

anonymous #2...very interesting point (regarding taxes and insurance), and on the general idea, I agree with you. But just to play devil's advocate...if we use our capitalist economy as part of the argument, we have to consider the other side of the coin. The suppliers/vendors will likely increase wholesale prices to cover the loss, which in turn increases restaurant prices. One could argue that this would lead to increased costs, less spending, and subsequently some sort of recession. I'm aware I'm being dramatic here, but my point is that the money is going into someone's pocket (and coming out of ours) one way or the other....if not now, then later.

Jess said...

I really just don't think we should legislate people's food choices. What's next? Banning peanuts and products that have had contact with peanuts because a good percentage of the population is dangerously allergic? It's the same type of thing.

If you think it would be ridiculous for someone to be arrested for carrying around a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich, then this should sound ridiculous to you. I just don't think we should be making laws that infringe on an individual's choices like this, when the choice affects no one but themselves.

And yes, I'm dismissing the higher healthcare/insurance costs, because we also haven't legislated against salty foods (high blood pressure), soda (tooth decay and obesity), red meat (high colesterol, heart disease), etc. We don't legislate against these things because we realize that you cannot control what other people do to that extent reliably and successfully. That, and because there are VERY few things in this world that are 100% safe and healthy for you, and life would get awfully boring awfully fast.

Emily Jolie said...

Wow! I am really surprised at everyone's comments here! I personally was extatic when I read about this new legislation! FINALLY, the government is doing something to protect the individual, not the big business!

I can see what some of you are saying, that people should get to make their own choices. But these should be INFORMED choices! And the food industry has been withholding information from the public on just how hazardous trans fats are to our health!
When people go out and by food that contains trans fats, they aren't consciously CHOOSING those trans fats. They are buying these products because they are inexpensive, greatly asdvertised, and they taste good (although, trust me, once you get your palate used to natural foods, you won't even like the taste of artificial foods anymore!).
Trans fats are mostly HIDDEN in all kinds of foods (chips, cakes, cookies, all kinds of snack foods...). People have no idea they are in there. Worse even, people are made to believe that they are choosing the HEALTHIER alternative. E.g. by buying margerine. For the longest time, margerine was marketed as the heart-friendly alternative to butter. It couldn't be further from the truth! Because margerine consists mainly of hydrogenated fats (aka trans fats) and the body doesn't know what to do with these artificially constructed fats, our bodies lay them down as plaque in the arteries.

The structure of trans fats is chemically altered in order to make vegetable fats, which are ordinarily liquid at room temperature, solid. This is to mimick the consistency of butter, so that we can use them in baking (e.g. shortening). The big food industry is saving itself a bunch of money that way, because vegetable fats are much cheaper than butter. Vegetable fats are also healthier - but that's BEFORE they've been chemically altered to a form that our bodies cannot assimilate!

So, my opinion - a big HOORAY for the people pushing the ban on trans fats!!!

with love,
Em

drstaceyny said...

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. As I had anticipated, there seem to be two issues here: health and political. Most of you seem to be anti-trans fat re: health, but the difference arise when the idea is politicized. I appreciate the different perspectives.

flowerchild said...

No more trans fats! And don't let the food manufacturers slide under the fence with just a minimal amount of the partially-hydrogenated. They can still add a bit and be considered "trans-fat" free. We need to get rid of it. It is not necessary, it is unnatural and it is dangerous. Basically, it is a plastic as anon2 said. It is an additive that is used to make food cheaper and increase profit for companies.

While we are at it, lets get rid of High Fructose corn syrup. It serves a similar function in the food industry (cheaper, increases profit)and it is scary. Read some of the research.

Anonymous said...

When pie crust is outlawed, only outlaws will eat pie! (Honestly, have you ever made a pie crust without shortening??)

I think this goes under the category of trying to "legislate morality". What will they outlaw next? Butter? Whole fat milk? Red meat? I think we should police our diet ourselves. Maybe they should outlaw portions in excess of the recommended serving size. Or just outlaw seconds and dessert...

I can see if they want them to inform folks that food contains transfats but, really, pretty soon they will have to post a complete ingredient list for every food on the menu. Americans need to take responsibility for what goes into their mouths. Stop suing fast food outlets and expecting government to be our mommies and protect us from our own ignorance and lack of self discipline.

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