Now that the US Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to eliminate transfats from Americans’ diets, about all there is to say is the sooner the better.
Chances are we’ll not only live longer, we’ll also live a little better. The FDA expects banning transfats to prevent 20,000 hearts attacks and 7,000 deaths every year. And it will do so without many of us noticing it. In fact, the movement to do away with transfats has been under way for several years.
New York City, notoriously, has banned transfats from restaurant food. So, more quietly, have Philadelphia and other cities, as well as the entire state of California. In grocery stores from coast to coast, the companies whose foods fill the shelves have been trimming transfats since at least 2005, reducing it by as much as three-fourths. What’s more, manufacturers have been required since 2006 to list transfats on nutrition labels.
And it’s been several years since patrons of McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC could find transfats in their French fries, nachos or chicken.
As for what transfats are, mostly they come from partially hydrogenated oils, and they’re about the worst kind of fat we ingest. Transfats are bad for us in multiple ways; they increase our bad cholesterol — LDL — and at the same time are believed to lower our good cholesterol — HDL. Their use began because they had staying power and were less expensive than certain other oils.
Fortunately, as the shift away from them on many fronts suggests, substitutes that aren’t particularly expensive and don’t have much impact on taste already exist.
Also fortunately, there hasn’t been much in the way of outrage — from diners worried about their favorite foods tasting different or costing more, or from libertarians alarmed about another dictate from the so-called nanny state. Perhaps that’s because they realize this is not a smart fight. Perhaps in this instance they don’t want to defend manufacturers desire to sell substances as clearly harmful as transfats or individuals’ right to ingest them
Corporate chefs may have to return to the test kitchens, but the end of transfats won’t mean the end of doughnuts, frozen pizza or even canned cake frosting. We’ll still be able to enjoy them, but with a little less guilt.