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The Trans Fat Ban Is Worse Than You Think

Why stop there?

The Food and Drug Administration issued a final decision this week, giving the food industry three years to phase out bad trans fats, still used in a wide variety of products, such as Pillsbury's Ready To Bake cookies and cake frosting. Now, if you're ingesting large quantities of either, perhaps partially hydrogenated oils aren't your biggest concern in life. But if the government's goal is to prevent cardiovascular disease and preventing cardiovascular disease is all that matters, why stop there?

The FDA alleges that phasing out trans fats will prevent about 7,000 premature deaths each year. (If you believe that these things can be quantified with that sort of precision, you have far too much faith in crusading bureaucracies. Years ago, I attempted to tally up the deaths that various studies, public interest groups and government agencies had attributed to obesity, smoking, salt, trans fats, meat, etc., and came up with a number larger than the number of all Americans who'd passed away that year.) But 610,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each year. Will 603,000 be left for corporate America to slaughter because we won't act? The negative externalities of allowing people to eat whatever they desire are huge.

So if we can ban trans fats in an effort to curtail heart disease, I wish someone would explain what stops the state from banning any unhealthful ingredient it feels like. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading reasons for higher risk of heart disease are diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.

How could the FDA allow us to keep pumping high-fructose corn syrup into our gullets now that we all understand it's a contributor to the spike in obesity over the past 30 years? Why do we still sell alcohol, a product that is by any measure more unhealthful than the small amounts of trans fats average Americans consume?

The CDC also contends that if you want to prevent heart disease, the most important thing you can do is to not smoke. Yet our own president (African-American men, incidentally, are at the highest risk for heart disease) may be inhaling tobacco smoke in the White House—a substance far more toxic than trans fats. About 443,000 people die from smoking every year.

Now, President Obama could argue that until very recently, there was no guiding principle in American governance to impel him to try to make sure that every citizen is living salubriously. Maybe, like many other Americans, Obama deems the sensorial benefits of his (onetime?) habit worth the health risk. Maybe I feel the same way about my Haagen-Dazs. As with smoking, there is no lack of transparency when it comes to the inherent dangers of too much trans fat.

Most people, of course, don't really care whether partially hydrogenated oils fall out of the food supply. What they do care about are the unremitting efforts of politicians to micromanage their lives. Once consumers heard about the risks associated with trans fats, they began avoiding them, and businesses consequently stopped using them as much. Between 1980 and 2009, Americans' consumption of trans fats dropped by about a third (as did our intake of saturated fats). The FDA claims that "trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012."

As Baylen Linnekin, the founder of the Keep Food Legal Foundation, points out, the American Heart Association has suggested that Americans consume "less than 2 grams of trans fats a day." So, he argues, "if the FDA and AHA are correct, then current consumption levels—prior to and without any ban —are well within safe levels."

Even with the decline, the FDA banned trans fats. Left-wing intrusions—small and large—follow a similar trajectory. First come reasonable calls for increased transparency (labeling regulations). If the public remains pigheaded, it's time to scare you (chilling studies and over-the-top predictions). If that doesn't work, leftists will discourage you (higher taxes and more regulations). And finally, they'll force you (banning or mandating) to comply.

With all this, we should not forget the favorite weapon of do-gooders: lawsuits. Government unleashes the lawyers to do their work, punishing companies that fail to comply, even ahead of the deadline. The usual collection of class action attorneys and professional bullies sue food companies that continue to use trans fats for various financial reasons—for example, taste and increased shelf life.

In today's world, the idea that government could dictate, say, what sort of sexual relationships a person can indulge in—whether they are bad for one's health or even a public risk—would seem preposterous. Even banning pot is beginning to be regarded as useless intrusion by millions. Yet allowing government to decide what we eat (or what our kids eat) is now considered a moral imperative.

After years of pressure from trial attorneys and junk-science public interest groups, the Obama administration has followed through with its pledge to ban what is—in the amounts most Americans ingest—a benign ingredient. But even if it's not, we have labels for a reason. It's unlikely the ban will do anything but create precedents that allow further intrusions into how and what we eat. Which is precisely the point.

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  • MC Guru||

    TOP. MEN.

  • Libertarian Joe||

    +1 Top Woodchipper

  • Chumby||

    +1 Top fed woodchipper

  • Number 2||

    "In today's world, the idea that government could dictate, say, what sort of sexual relationships a person can indulge in—whether they are bad for one's health or even a public risk—would seem preposterous."

    Really? Have you been to a college in California lately?

  • Almanian - Wood Chipper-ish||

    what sort of sexual relationships a person can indulge in

    Or the American South in the 30's, 40's, 50's. Hell, the North! As recently as the 80's!

  • Almanian - Wood Chipper-ish||

    As recently as the '00's! The Teens!

    So - fuck American Government at any level, is what I'm trying to say*.

    *This is not an endorsement of the use of wood chippers or other devices against government, although, if you look at that Declaration of Independence thing, the peoples of da USA (or the "shortly pre-USA", technically) have a history of using devices to....persuade those in certain positions to...alter their views of things. This in no way does that. Pretty much. More or less.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    +1 Tar and Feathers

  • Almanian - Wood Chipper-ish||

    When I read "Trans Fat" I think "Chastity/Chaz Bono". But that's just me...

  • AlmightyJB||

    What if we just started calling them trans proteins, then they wouldn't be illegal anymore.

  • AlmightyJB||

    If Bruce Jenner can be a women then why can't....oh nevermind.

  • Almanian - Wood Chipper-ish||

    Bru....er...C. Jenner is more "trans protein", what with being an Olympic athlete and all.

    Chaz definitely be Trans Fat.

    Which would be an excellent modestly humorous name for a rapper of prodigious girth.

  • Loki||

    Or a skinny person who identifies as fat...

  • lap83||

    Because fat is genetic?

  • John Galt||

    Just did a Google image search: Chaz Bono. Dayum. I go fishing with that dude.

  • Suicidy||

    Chaz Bono and CaitlinJenner should co-host a variety show together. That would be some real entertainment.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    How could the FDA allow us to keep pumping high-fructose corn syrup into our gullets now that we all understand it's a contributor to the spike in obesity over the past 30 years?
    Everyone knows the HFCS thing is just Junk Science.
    Transfat danger? Now that's for real.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Everyone knows the HFCS thing is just Junk Science."

    Not everyone unfortunately.

  • bassjoe||

    I'm just pissed that my sprinkles will leak color onto my frosting now.

  • Eggs Benedict Cumberbund||

    Sprinkles are for winners, bitch.

  • Brochettaward||

    A calorie is a fucking calorie. If you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than than you consume, you will lose weight. Losing weight and obesity aren't complicated subjects. People are just fucking lazy and want it to be easier.

    There's nothing special about trans or saturated fats. Or carbs. Or gluten. Or things that have government approved organic labels versus whatever people think of as not organic.

  • Eggs Benedict Cumberbund||

    Well calorie for calorie you are better off with some foods than others. Micronutrients, adequate protein, good fats, that are found in veggies, meat and some fruits etc. are all better health choices than other crap like grains, legumes, seeds etc.

  • Bruce Majors||

    Racist.

  • BiPolarMoment||

    Starvation mode!

  • Brochettaward||

    You'll still lose weight even you just ate 800 calories in kit kats everyday. Though, yes, some calories are healthier. The composition of what you lose in terms of muscle vs. protein will vary.

  • Atanarjuat||

    The problem with trans fats is not that they make you fat, or provide more calories than other types of fat. The trans double bond is not present in fatty acid chains that humans would consume from a plant or animal source. When those trans fatty acid chains are incorporated into the lipid bilayer of cells, they are more rigid than naturally occurring fats and contribute to hardening of the arteries. They are legitimately unhealthy. That is why Harsanyi was careful to say they are not unhealthy *in very small dietary quantities*.

    This is not to say the government should have the power to ban them.

  • RAHeinlein||

    Incorrect - TFA's are naturally present in a variety of "natural" sources.

  • JFree||

    A calorie is not a calorie. Our body is not a calorimeter.

    Carbs are usually turned into energy (so yeah they are calories).

    Proteins and fats are broken down into acids which are generally used to either build muscle or catalyze reactions. Only the excess is burned up as calories.

    We expend much less energy now than we used to. Which means we should be eating fewer calories. But that mostly means we should be eating less carbs. We aren't using our brains less (so not less fats) and even if we don't need muscles for work we still need them to impress (or haul our fatter butts to the fridge).

    And not all fats are the same either. Generally, plant fat better than animal fat. Small animal fat better than big animal fat. And plant fats that you can extract with a hand tool are better than plant fats you can only extract with a chemistry degree.

  • RAHeinlein||

    Thanks for the romper-room metabolism lessons. "Only extract with a chemistry degree" is precisely the scientific metric used to differentiate good and bad fats...

  • JFree||

    You're very welcome.

  • Suicidy||

    It isn't as simple as calories in apcalories out. I can pile on the calories and if they are straight carbs from raw fruits and vegetables with little fat then I will actually lose weight. Same if I cut carbs and have a fat/protein based diet. I can cut my caloric intake by a thousand calories below that mixing carbs and fat, and it will cause me to GAIN weight.

  • bassjoe||

    "How could the FDA allow us to keep pumping high-fructose corn syrup into our gullets now that we all understand it's a contributor to the spike in obesity over the past 30 years?"

    Because corn is sacrosanct in this country, especially in the "swing" states that determine our president. Who gives a fuck about trans fats? Seriously, who?

  • GreenLantern||

    The Michaels - Bloomberg and Jacobson.

    But that's about it.

  • ||

    I think the takeaway on this is that the free market *already* reduced the amount of trans fats on the market by about 85%. Because they got bad press and people no longer want them.

    The Government can't just sit back and let it look like the free market identified a problem and took care of it all by itself. They need to step in and ban trans fats before they disappear entirely, so that they can take credit for preventing those evil corporations in their attempted murder of the population.

    Of course, many of the trans fats that remain, like margarine, remain because poor people would rather pay $.45 for (slightly less healthy) margarine than $2 for (slightly less unhealthy) butter, even though butter is "better." Same for, say, Crisco vs. coconut oil.

    Why do Progressives hate the poor?

  • John Galt||

    Progs just hate. They hate basically everyone and everything.

  • Loki||

    They especially hate anyone who makes choices they disagree with.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Last three words are unnecessary.

  • Suicidy||

    So can we PLEASE get rid of all the progressives now? Maybe send the. All to the arctic?

  • Robert||

    There'll be other margarines, such as those made by transesterifying saturated w unsaturated triglycerides.

  • John Galt||

    Is that Buck Strickland? He sells propane and propane accessories.

  • But Enough About Me||

    Why do Progressives hate the poor?


    Because they can.

  • Jerryskids||

    Progresssives don't hate the poor - they want us all to be poor! And miserable.

  • Brian||

    "Why do we still sell alcohol, a product that is by any measure more unhealthful than the small amounts of trans fats average Americans consume?"

    Stop giving them ideas, David. They'll try again with the right Top. Men.

  • kinghiram91||

    Because they tried it once and failed horribly. Now you'll have backwoods yokels partially hydrogenating vegetable oil by the light of the moon and selling it. We'll call it Moonoil!

  • Akira||

    "Because they tried it once and failed horribly."

    Come on, man.... When has that EVER stopped "progressives" from doing something stupid?

  • scawarren||

    This total BS. These morons at the FDA have no idea what they're talking about once again and the same goes for the USDA.Take for example their idiotic food chart; flip the damn thing around and it'd be a lot more accurate and people would be healthier. I'm so sick of these alphabet agencies and I believe we'd be better off if they were ALL abolished!

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    I heard we are supposed to eat the food chart....fiber anyone?

  • RAHeinlein||

    This FDA action is particularly insidious because they have essentially banned a specific TECHNOLOGY as applied to food lipids - hydrogenation (although they state "partially" hydrogenated oils). The process can be well-controlled to produce virtually no TFA's (although, I reject the premise that TFA's are inherently worse than certain saturated fats, and then only with genetic predisposition or luxus consumption). Essentially, "artificial" is the operative concept.

    "There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who "love Nature" while deploring the "artificialities" with which "man has spoiled 'Nature.'" The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are NOT part of "Nature" - but beavers and their dams ARE.

    Lazarus Long

  • kinghiram91||

    The reason oils like veggie oil get hydrogenated is to help preserve them. Plain vegetable oil doesn't have an incredibly long shelf life, so infusing hydrogen into it helps make it into a state that is more stable.

  • Suicidy||

    True. Rancid oils are nasty.

  • Robert||

    I wish someone would explain what stops the state from banning any unhealthful ingredient it feels like.


    The lack of close substitutes that are safer. Doesn't always work, but that's what's operating here.

  • Robert||

    Even with the decline, the FDA banned trans fats.


    Same pattern David Musto detected for cocaine.

  • Chumby||

    If Caitlyn Jenner gains weight, she could be the trans fatty.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Hence the push to stop eating.....never mind..

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Do 400,000+ people die from "smoking" every year? Really? Because I run into that number all over and every time I try to run it back I smack into the tendency to assume that EVERYBODY who died of emphasema was a smoker unless one of the grieving relatives makes a stink about say he wasn't. Same for a lot of "smoking related" conditions.

    I'm not saying smoking isn't am unhealthy vice but the anti-smoking Crusade left trivialities like sticking to the facts behind some time in the 1980's. A very great deal of what they assert in unmitigated bullshit, because they learned absolutely NOTHING from the effect that Prohibition had on the reputation of drunks. In the 1920's all of a sudden, drunks were glamorous. Check out THE THIN MAN, for a prime example. And we didn't start to get shut of that until the 1970's. But prohbitionists, unlike the Bourbons, not only learn nothing, they forget everything.

  • Silverleaf||

    Just like helmet and seat belt laws, this is yet another step in the insidious advancement of "the government's job is to protect me from me" rules. I'm seriously waiting for the day when they ban my motorcycle because it's not "safe". I'm waiting for the day when they outlaw skydiving. I'm waiting for the day when fireworks shows are banned because they're "too dangerous" and when one can no longer make mulch because wood chippers have been outlawed...

    "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty note safety. " What a bunch of stupid sheep we've become.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    My father was the adopted son of a Methodist minister, and as such was forbidden to play with fireworks, because his mother didn't think it was the sort of thing a minister's son should do. He waited until he was an adult, and wouldn't you know it, by then the nannies had managed to get most States to ban most fireworks.

    I don't think he ever forgave them.

  • Rockabilly||

    Only centralized government with its elite cadre of knowledge experts knows what's best for you.

    You, obviously, are too stupid figure out shit like = should I save for retirement or do I want to spend my money right away on some crazed scheme?

    The pro-choice progressive communists have already decided for you so part of your wages goes into their socialist security scheme.
    They are pro-choice, they choose what's best for you, a once free citizen.

  • IceTrey||

    The government claims they want to control healthcare costs and then does stupid stuff like this. Don't they know that the sooner you die the less you cost the health system?

  • ||

    This may be shocking news, but transfats occur in "natural" foods

    Actual science is realizing that plaque in the arteries has nothing to do with diet. It's a response to inflammation triggered by a bacteria creating TMAO (trimethylamine n-oxide)

  • ant1sthenes||

    Maybe that explains the link between dental health and heart health...

  • JeremiahtheProphet||

    A pro inflammatory diet has everything to do with it. Sugar, refined processed flour, much worse than any fat.

  • JeremiahtheProphet||

    A pro inflammatory diet has everything to do with it. Sugar, refined processed flour, much worse than any fat.

  • Roger Knights||

    Trans Fat replacements, interesterified fats, bad?

    https://goo.gl/gyxiH3

  • RAHeinlein||

    Ultimately, the point is to simply obliterate the entire domestic oil industry - along with with Big Ag, and other capitalist institutions.

  • DrErle||

    Trans-Fats are made by adding hydrogen to naturally occurring oils such as soybean or cottonseed oil with the beneficial result of longer shelf life, resistance to break down in fat fryers, hardening to a solid at room temperature, improving mouth feel etc.
    Unfortunately, there is a great deal of research to show that of all the fats we consume, trans-fats are the ones associated with heart attacks and strokes. They increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol and cause systemic inflammation affecting the arteries.
    This is in contrast to the lack of data on the danger of saturated fats in dairy and meats.
    The point is that trans-fats are a true hazard in the food supply and there is no good reason for it to be there.
    The main problem with trans-fats is that it is impossible for a restaurant patron to tell if they are in his food, and unless someone is a label reader and cares, it's presence is invisible in manufactured food.
    The idea that some people are eager to eat lots of trans-fats, and that a ban would violate their rights is a silly application of Libertarian principles. The invisible presence of trans fats in our food has nothing to in common with choosing to wear a seatbelt or a helmet. Trans-fats are foisted on the unknowing and unwary (nearly all of us) and and we should not be fighting this battle as if our freedom was at stake. We should save our energy for more worthwhile and defensible causes.

  • x4rqcks3f v2.0||

    The point is that trans-fats are a true hazard in the food supply and there is no good reason for it to be there.

    Trans-Fats are made... with the beneficial result of longer shelf life, resistance to break down in fat fryers, hardening to a solid at room temperature, improving mouth feel etc.

    You're an idiot.

  • JeremiahtheProphet||

    ImprovING mouth feel. You are a goddam moron. And most likely an industry plant. And wanting Trans fats in food shows how ignorant you are.

  • x4rqcks3f v2.0||

    GoddamN. Apparently trans fats also improve writing skills.

  • rudehost||

    "Trans-fats are foisted on the unknowing and unwary (nearly all of us) and and we should not be fighting this battle as if our freedom was at stake. We should save our energy for more worthwhile and defensible causes."

    This is similar to saying we should not defend free speech rights if the speaker is a klansman. It is the principal that needs defending not the goo in your twinkie. What I eat is not the government's business period.

  • GreenLantern||

    ...and let's not forget the government's refusal to approve Olestra as a zero calorie, non-atherogenic alternative to fats altogether. One can only wonder how much effect that would have had on the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • 2tiredofit||

    How typical.......the government is concerned with trans fats, but not GMO's. There must not be enough money in the trans fat for them to turn their heads like with Monsanto.

  • Akira||

    So if the government can ban things that they believe are unhealthy, what's next? Bacon? Saturated fat? Full-fat milk? Sugary breakfast cereals? Non-wholegrain bread? Steak???

    And once they ban all the foods that they think are unhealthy, what's next? Mandatory exercise? Will everyone have to have weekly appointments at a government weigh-station and go to a federal fat camp if they are overweight? Sure, it sounds like silly hyperbole, but look at half the shit our government does today that would have been considered silly hyperbole if it were proposed decades ago.

    Given how often the government has been wrong about nutritional matters (see: original "food pyramid") why should they be allowed to play the Food Gestapo anyway?

  • Suicidy||

    I will be a higher tech version of '1984'.

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  • Bruce Majors||

    Intersectionality is when someone is discriminated against for two things, not just one.

    Like transfats.

  • ||

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  • rxc||

    There is a movement called "Health in all Policies" described here: http://www.newsworks.org/index.....e-in-2015-
    which sounds like an attempt to use health to control literally everything in a community. Not surprisingly, it is promoted by health "experts" and progressives. We are medicalizing everything, in order to control everyone.

    Sound very frightening.

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