Controversy Over the Trans Fat Ban

Controversy Over the Trans Fat Ban
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The food industry fought tooth and nail to retain partially hydrogenated oils, even though they were killing 50,000 Americans a year.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 1993, the Harvard Nurses’ Study found that high intake of trans fat may increase the risk of heart disease by 50%. That’s where the trans fat story started, in Denmark, ending a decade later with a ban on added trans fats there in 2003. It took another 10 years, though, before the U.S. even started considering a ban. All the while, trans fats were killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. Why, if so many people were dying, did it take so long for the U.S. to suggest taking action?

One can look at the fight over New York City’s trans fat ban for a microcosm of the national debate. “Opposition came,” not surprisingly, “from [the food] industry,” complaining “about government intrusion,” likening the city to a “nanny state.” “Are trans fat bans…the road to food fascism?” Yes, a ban on added trans fats might save 50,000 American lives every year, which might save the country tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Not so fast, though. If people eating trans fat die early, think how much we could save on Medicare and Social Security. That’s why “smokers [may] actually cost society less than nonsmokers, because smokers die earlier.” So, “we should be careful about making claims about the potential cost savings of trans fat bans.” “More research is needed on the effects of these policies.” Yes, we might save 50,000 lives a year, but you have to think about “the effects on the food industry.”

How about just “education and product labeling,” rather than the “extreme measure of banning” trans fat? As the leading Danish cardiologist put it, when we discover a food additive that’s dangerous, we don’t label it, we simply remove it. But, we’re Americans! “As they say in North America: ‘You can put poison in food if you label it properly.’”  But look, people who are informed and know the risks should be able to eat whatever they want. But that’s assuming they’re given all the facts, which doesn’t always happen, “due to deception and manipulation” by the food industry. 

And, not surprisingly, it’s the unhealthiest of foods that are most commonly promoted, using deceptive marketing. It’s not because junk food companies are evil, or want to make us sick. “The reason is one of simple economics—[processed foods simply] offer higher profit margins and are shelf-stable, unlike fresh foods, such as fruit[s] and vegetables.” So, their “model of systemic dishonesty,” some argue, “justifies some minimal level of governmental intervention.”

But what about the slippery slope? “Today, trans fats; tomorrow, hot dogs.” Or the reverse, what if they make us eat broccoli? This actually came up in a Supreme Court case over Obamacare. As Chief Justice Roberts said, Congress could start ordering everyone to buy vegetables, a concern Justice Ginsburg labeled “the broccoli horrible.” Hypothetically, Congress could compel the American public to go plant-based; yet, one can’t “offer the ‘hypothetical and unreal possibilit[y]…of a vegetarian state as a credible [argument].” As one legal scholar put it, “Judges and lawyers [may] live on the slippery slope of analogies, [but] they are not supposed to ski it to the bottom.”

If anything, what about “the slippery slope of inaction”? “Government initially defaulted to business interests in the case of tobacco and pursued weak and ineffective attempts at education” to try to counter all the tobacco industry lies, and look what happened. The unnecessary deaths could be counted in the millions. “The U.S. can ill afford to repeat this mistake with diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Phlebotomy Tech. Image has been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 1993, the Harvard Nurses’ Study found that high intake of trans fat may increase the risk of heart disease by 50%. That’s where the trans fat story started, in Denmark, ending a decade later with a ban on added trans fats there in 2003. It took another 10 years, though, before the U.S. even started considering a ban. All the while, trans fats were killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. Why, if so many people were dying, did it take so long for the U.S. to suggest taking action?

One can look at the fight over New York City’s trans fat ban for a microcosm of the national debate. “Opposition came,” not surprisingly, “from [the food] industry,” complaining “about government intrusion,” likening the city to a “nanny state.” “Are trans fat bans…the road to food fascism?” Yes, a ban on added trans fats might save 50,000 American lives every year, which might save the country tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Not so fast, though. If people eating trans fat die early, think how much we could save on Medicare and Social Security. That’s why “smokers [may] actually cost society less than nonsmokers, because smokers die earlier.” So, “we should be careful about making claims about the potential cost savings of trans fat bans.” “More research is needed on the effects of these policies.” Yes, we might save 50,000 lives a year, but you have to think about “the effects on the food industry.”

How about just “education and product labeling,” rather than the “extreme measure of banning” trans fat? As the leading Danish cardiologist put it, when we discover a food additive that’s dangerous, we don’t label it, we simply remove it. But, we’re Americans! “As they say in North America: ‘You can put poison in food if you label it properly.’”  But look, people who are informed and know the risks should be able to eat whatever they want. But that’s assuming they’re given all the facts, which doesn’t always happen, “due to deception and manipulation” by the food industry. 

And, not surprisingly, it’s the unhealthiest of foods that are most commonly promoted, using deceptive marketing. It’s not because junk food companies are evil, or want to make us sick. “The reason is one of simple economics—[processed foods simply] offer higher profit margins and are shelf-stable, unlike fresh foods, such as fruit[s] and vegetables.” So, their “model of systemic dishonesty,” some argue, “justifies some minimal level of governmental intervention.”

But what about the slippery slope? “Today, trans fats; tomorrow, hot dogs.” Or the reverse, what if they make us eat broccoli? This actually came up in a Supreme Court case over Obamacare. As Chief Justice Roberts said, Congress could start ordering everyone to buy vegetables, a concern Justice Ginsburg labeled “the broccoli horrible.” Hypothetically, Congress could compel the American public to go plant-based; yet, one can’t “offer the ‘hypothetical and unreal possibilit[y]…of a vegetarian state as a credible [argument].” As one legal scholar put it, “Judges and lawyers [may] live on the slippery slope of analogies, [but] they are not supposed to ski it to the bottom.”

If anything, what about “the slippery slope of inaction”? “Government initially defaulted to business interests in the case of tobacco and pursued weak and ineffective attempts at education” to try to counter all the tobacco industry lies, and look what happened. The unnecessary deaths could be counted in the millions. “The U.S. can ill afford to repeat this mistake with diet.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Phlebotomy Tech. Image has been modified.

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