This Information May Help You Live Longer

This site has been in existence for about 10 years, and until now, no changes have been made. However, most of the data herein are now firmly entrenched in the public domain. So when you read these pages, please keep that in mind.

One important update is this: the Federal Government codified the listing of trans fat on food labels. The sad thing is that if the amount of trans fat in a serving is less than 0.5g (one-half gram), they allow manufacturers to list the amount of Trans Fat as 0g (zero grams). To my mind that's shameful.

The link to the FDA article is here, and here are the applicable paragraphs:

L45. How should trans fatty acids be listed?

Answer: Trans fatty acids should be listed as “Trans fat” or “Trans” on a separate line under the listing of saturated fat in the Nutrition Facts label (see figure). The word “trans” may be italicized to indicate its Latin origin. Trans fat content must be expressed as grams per serving to the nearest 0.5-gram increment below 5 grams and to the nearest gram above 5 grams. If a serving contains less than 0.5 gram, the content, when declared, must be expressed as “0 g.” (21 CFR 101.9(c)(2)(ii)).

L46. If a serving contains less than 0.5 gram of trans fat, when would “0 g” of trans fat not have to be declared?

Answer: For conventional food products (those food products other than dietary supplements), declaration of “0 g” of trans fat is not required for such products that contain less than 0.5 g of total fat in a serving and no claims are made about fat, fatty acid or cholesterol content. If trans fat is not listed, the statement “Not a significant source of trans fat” may be placed at the bottom of the table of nutrient values in lieu of declaring “0 g” of trans fat. If these claims are present, then the statement “Not a significant source of trans fat” is not an option and the declaration of “0 g” of trans fat is required. 21 CFR 101.9(c)(2)(ii)

L48. Is it possible for a food product to list the amount of trans fat as 0 g on the Nutrition Facts label if the ingredient list indicates that it contains “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?”

Answer: Yes. Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram (½ g) as 0 (zero) on the Nutrition Facts label. As a result, consumers may see a few products that list 0 gram trans fat on the label, while the ingredient list will have “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on it. This means the food contains very small amounts (less than 0.5 g) of trans fat per serving.

Here is my original rant from 2001:

Research cited by the American Heart Association shows that nearly 500,000 Americans die each year from heart disease, and of these deaths, 30,000 are premature. This is a huge number, which, according to American Heart, represents a major spike in the incidence of the disease over the last thirty years. I believe that a major contributor is the type of shortening used in commercially prepared foods. And we Americans, who more often than not will take the path of least resistance, seem to consume more commercially prepared foods than meals made from scratch.

For the record, I'm not a doctor, biologist, scientist, lawyer or politician. I simply want to spread the word about the deadly effects that trans fats (trans fatty acids) appear to have on ourselves and society. So before you dive into this site, ask yourself if you have a good understanding of dietary fat and cholesterol. If not, take a minute to read this very informative paper

Being the conscientious consumer that you are, you've by now been exposed to the term "partially hydrogenated." Do you know what that means? For years I read it, but had no idea that I should care until a few years ago.

Simply stated, hydrogenation is a process that causes liquid vegetable oil to stay solid at room temperature. The process involves bringing the oil to an extremely high temperature and then pumping hydrogen gas through it (thus the term hydrogen-ation). What this does to the once fine oil is to rearrange its hydrocarbon bonds, thus creating a new molecular structure which results in a man-made concoction loaded with trans fatty acids.

"So what?" you ask. Well, research by the American Heart Association and others, has shown that trans fats are worse for your cardiovascular system than saturated fat (the kind of fat found in butter). It's generally accepted in western medicine that saturated fat raises the body's level of low-density lipoprotein, LDL ("bad" cholesterol), while leaving levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL ("good" cholesterol) unaffected.

This same research has also shown that while trans fats raise LDL like saturated fat, they simultaneously LOWER HDL, throwing your cholesterol ratio out of proportion. So what you actually get when you eat those cheesy poofs is a double-whammy. Not only are you getting a huge dose of man-made fat, your LDL and HDL levels get knocked out of their proper proportion, negatively and severely affecting your blood chemistry.

Now, I'm not picking on any of the companies mentioned here. There are thousands of products on the market loaded with trans fats; I only cite cheesy poofs because I used to eat quite a lot of them. In fact, to their credit, a major cheesy-poof manufacturer now has a line of trans fat-free snacks, though they continue to market the bad stuff along with everyone else.

Click here to read the Mayo Clinic's view on butter and margarine.

In my opinion, trans fat consumption has had greivous effects on our society at large: healthcare costs continue to rise; people who seemed healthy one minute drop dead of a massive heart attack the next (remember Jim Fixx?), and parents, school dietitians and doctors scratch their collective head trying to figure out why little Johnny is obese at nine years old. Read the label on that jar of peanut butter! And speaking of peanut here to link to a site that exposes peanut butter's "goodness."

Granted, I may be a bit neurotic when it comes to trans fats, but that's because I found partially hydrogenated oil in my baby's teething cookies! It's bad enough that we unwittingly eat this stuff as adults, but to put it in our children's food is unforgivable. In fact, I read the work of one researcher who was able to scientifically classify trans fatty acid as being poisonous to the human body.

As if all that isn't bad enough, be careful if you go on a diet with processed foods. I found partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list of "diet" prepared dinners (the name contained the word "Healthy" in it). As one person wrote me not long ago, manufacturers using partially hydrogenated oils in their production processes are killing off the very consumers who provide their profits.

Please take the time to do some research and, by all means, READ THE LABELS! When we initially learned about trans fats, my wife and I went through our pantry, fridge and freezer and ended up throwing out or giving a ton of food away; and my neighbors still took it, even after we "enlightened" them as to the potentially deadly contents. Oh well, like Dorothy Parker once said, "You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."

As far as I'm concerned, and based on the data available, I can find NO JUSTIFICATION for the continued use of partially hydrogenated oil in processed-food manufacturing, other than the producers' bottom line. Their greed is killing us, but we can get them to change the recipe if we stop buying their products. Personally, I don't mind paying a few extra cents for a product that won't kill me. Here's what you can do: again, read the labels. Avoid items with partially hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated LARD (such as some pastry crusts), and don't knowingly add trans fats to your diet. Be aware, however, that small quantities of trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products, so it's tough to avoid them completely unless you're a vegetarian.

There's no legislation yet to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, but this newsbrief from the FDA suggests that there may be rudimentary knowledge in Washington, D.C. that it's a hazardous substance.

You will probably get frustrated shopping at your local supermarket for items made without partially hydrogenated oils. My experience has been that they're essentially non-existant in large, chain markets. But there's hope! We found a chain of supermarkets called Whole Foods® that specializes in natural products.

If you want to make an impact, read and sign this Petition to Congress to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods.

You can also write to:

Your State Senators
Your State Representative
The Snack Food Association®
The Food & Drug Administration
The Department of Health & Human Services

Ask them how they plan to correct this total lack of regard for your health, and then ask if they plan on getting your vote. With a bit of perseverance, we just may be able to eradicate added trans fats from our processed foods and make this great nation of ours a little healthier. Thank you for reading my rant. However, no rant would be complete without the famous caveat that Dennis Miller cleverly used for so many years:

But that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.

Please email this author with comments and suggestions, and kindly notify me of broken links.

Last Update of Original Page: 05SEP05
Latest Additional Information: 30JUL11