Thu, Sep 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Beware lurking trans fats

By Daniel Luthi

A recent development in New York has prompted me to write this letter now in order to help my new homeland and its inhabitants to become aware of a potentially dangerous ingredient in our daily foods. The event in New York was the announcement by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene requesting restaurants to replace margarine and similar cooking oils, which contain trans fats, with healthier oils.

These trans fats, found in hydrogenated vegetable oils, increase the chance of developing heart disease and raise "bad" cholesterol levels (LDL) while lowering "good" cholesterol levels (HDL). Research by the Harvard School of Public Health and other facilities show that they increase the risk of diabetes, breast and prostate cancer, interfere with cerebral cortex function (lowered intelligence) and vision in children, and that they double the risk of heart attacks.

Some of you may say that you don't eat out that often and that you don't use these kinds of oils and margarines at home. The problem is that these trans fats are found in an extremely broad range of commercial products such as instant noodles, cookies, cakes, potato chips, shrimp crackers, ice cream, milk powder, French fries, onion rings, salad dressings and virtually all fast foods. How many of these products do you or your children eat every day?

So, what can we do? Try to avoid eating processed and fast foods as listed above, start looking at the labels when shopping, avoid products that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and/or vegetable shortenings, and start putting suggestions in those boxes found at your local supermarkets and grocery stores, demanding healthier choices. The world is full of products that avoid these dangerous additives; we just need to learn where to look and how to ask for them.

Can you avoid trans fats entirely? Probably not, but you can certainly reduce their intake. And maybe it's time to start making your own salad dressing with delicious and health-promoting extra virgin olive oil.

Daniel Luthi


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