Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Uber Evil?

On Monday, April 3rd. The Detroit News printed an article in their Features section titled "Fighting the most evil of the fat world."

Reporter Lisa Rykman of the Scripps Howard News Service begins:
"There's good fat, there's bad fat and there's truly horrible, heinous, reprehensible fat--the Voldemort of the fat world, a fat so hideous and evil that it's despised by nutritionists and cardiologists the world over." Two paragraphs later she writes:

"But trans fat--shudder--is beyond bad. It's so bad, in fact, that it earned the label of "metabolic poison" from Harvard School of Public Health professor Walter Willet." One paragraph later:

"This is mass-murdering fat: Willet and his collegues estimated that replacing partially hydrogenated fat in the U.S. diet with natural vegetable oils would prevent as many as 100,000 deaths annually, which averages out to 274 a day."

Nowhere in the report does the reporter tell her readers how Americans came to use trans fatty acids in their diet. But she does tell the readers that:

"The heinous nature of trans fat has been known for years. In 1994, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group, asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require trans fat to be listed on labels and claims."

Ms. Rykman continues: "Recently, CSPI asked the FDA to take action to keep food companies from claiming "0 grams trans fat" on foods high is saturated fat, saying that such labels will mislead consumers by making them think the product is heart healthy." It is interesting to note that Ms. Rykman did't tell her readers that CSPI is a far leftist advocacy group with strong anti-free market leanings.

Now it's easy to see that a casual reader will be tempted to assume that the uses of trans fats was inspired solely by "food companies." ( Trans fats were invented by the food companies and championed by the science establishment and the media.) Nowhere does she mention the fact that this is the same Walter Willet who championed trans fats in the 1980s. From an article at Junk Science.com which quotes a New York Times article:

*"When I was a physician in the 1980s, that's what I was telling people to do and unfortunately we were often sending them to their graves prematurely," the Times quoted Willett as saying.*

While I admire his honesty on this matter, can you imagine the hue and cry if a food company scientist made such a confession? The cries for criminal charges would be deafening. Also, how can it be wrong for food companies to mislead the public but ok for university scientists like Mr. Willett? Will Mr. Willett be punished? Will he even get a tsk-tsk?

But the question is, is any of this true? Or is this just more science establishment hype? Did he really send hundreds or thousands to an early death? Or is he just trying to scare Americans into accepting his next bit scientific dogma?

An article at the American Council on Science and Health of Feb. 14th. 2005, writer Jeff Stier, Esq. says:

"As a result of the campaign against saturated fats, manufacturers switched to trans-fats, and those of us who wanted to be healthier switched from butter to margerine. Yet now, with only the weakest case against trans-fats, it too is put on the no-no list."

And:
"In spite of doomsayer's warnings, there's no substantial body of evidence that trans-fats have killed anyone. In fact, for multiple and complex reasons, over the period when trans-fats came into common use, rates of death from heart disease have actually dropped."

In his book The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PHD wrote:

"Many researchers, in particular those who advocate the diet-heart idea, argue that the evidence implicating trans fats as harmful is weak." He goes on to say that because of concerns about reproduction and growth being hampered and possible cancer growth,..."demands that it be subjected to thorough scientific scutiny." (P.237)

So, are trans fats the new Uber Evil? I don't think so. They may in fact, be the reason many Americans are fat. But if our food supply is so deadly, why are we living longer than ever before?
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