I applaud the efforts by the FDA and consumer advocates who have pushed through a ban on extremely harmful trans fats or hydrogenated oils. I would be careful to celebrate the ultimate victory too soon though. Slapping the "NO TRANS FAT" label on various food items may simply create a smokescreen that hides other harmful ingredients.
Take a doughnut made without trans fats but loaded with polyunsaturated vegetable oils and sugars. This product may now be presented as a healthier option because it is made without trans fats. This plants a big green light in front of consumers without providing a reminder of how harmful the combination of vegetable oils and mega-doses of sugar are to overall health. To take it a step further, this ban on trans fats may feed into the root of the problem - the consumer eats on auto-pilot assuming that the FDA has their back.
The other issue within the NYT article is the suggestion that saturated fats are a huge problem in the American diet. In fact fats that are more saturated like butter, lard or coconut oil are more resistant to heat oxidation and therefore should be used more often in cooking. These healthy forms of heavily saturated fats have yet to be directly connected to heart disease, as disproven research and baseless rules of thumb would suggest.
a better solution
I sincerely do hope that banning trans fats directly prevents as many heart attacks/deaths as the FDA claims it will. I would just caution that when looking to take down the "bad guys" it is important to target all of the true bad guys and to take down the entire crew. Otherwise the crimes keep happening...
Rather than a ban on trans fats I would prefer that the FDA aim their resources at educating consumers on exactly what is important to steer clear of and why. This would arm the consumer with the knowledge and power to be prepared for true dietary dangers. To achieve significant health changes, consumers need to be awake and engaged at the wheel as they navigate the nutrition landscape that we live in.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Founder of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness, recovery and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Siri-Tarino, P. (2010, January 13). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Retrieved June 17, 2015, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.abstract