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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Revisited

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote an entry regarding the discovery of trace amounts of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup.  Since that time, I’ve seen an increasing number of products switching back to good old-fashioned sugar.  That is encouraging.

Personally, I do not drink soft drinks because soft drink companies are among the largest producers of HFCS-laden products.  Recently, however, I saw a 20 oz. bottle of Limited Edition Pepsi-Cola while standing at the checkout.  I picked it up and read the ingredients, which included sugar, but NOT high-fructose corn syrup!  Also, there was no sodium benzoate (which, through digestion, produces benzene, a known carcinogen).  I bought it.  I know, I know!  Sugar is not good for you in any form, but let’s face it, I have a sweet tooth.  The soda was delicious and I immediately noticed that it didn’t have the weird metallic aftertaste I’ve noticed before when drinking colas.

Because I would rather see soda companies make the switch from HFCS to sugar, and because certain restaurants like Jason’s Deli are being met with resistance from soft drink companies to make this switch, I thought I would go to Pepsi.com and put my $.02 in.  Here was my short and sugar-sweet comment:

Several years ago, I stopped consuming colas and soft drinks because the use of high-fructose corn syrup was ubiquitous.  The other day, standing in the checkout lane of our neighborhood grocery store, I saw a “Limited Edition” Pepsi-Cola sweetened with good old-fashioned sugar.  I purchased it and it was delicious.  I thought I should tell you that I would purchase Pepsi products if they contained sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.  Until then, like your promotional Pepsi-Cola, I will be a “Limited Edition” customer.

Sincerely,

Joseph

On 9/24/10, the Pepsi team responded:

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at Pepsi-Cola to tell us that you are enjoying Pepsi Throwback. It means so much to us when we receive such positive feedback from those whose opinion matters the most—our customers!

Your feedback is important to us. Even though there are no current plans to reintroduce this product, I’ll be sure to share your comments with our beverage team for future consideration.

Thanks again for your message. We appreciate your interest in our company and our products.

Julieann Benes
Consumer Relations Representative

As consumers, we can help steer this change.  Feel free to stop by Pepsi.com or any of your favorite manufacturers and urge them to remove this unnatural ingredient from their products.   If you read your labels like any good, health-conscious consumer should, you’ll find that it is everywhere.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Call to Action, Current Health News, Food, Health & Wellness

 

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Produce Consumer’s Best Friend

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

.

For those of you who may not already know, one of my areas of interest include the problem of human body pollution, also called the human body burden (* see also the Human Toxome Project).  One of the ways that consumers can help minimize the number of harmful chemicals our bodies are exposed to is by choosing organic products.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)  has done outstanding work over the past few years raising the awareness of this problem, which I believe is even more pressing than Global Warming.  For example, they have developed a database of consumer hygiene products, which consumers can use free of charge to discover just how toxic or Earth-friendly the product it.

They also have a Produce Shopper’s Guide, listing the dirty dozen of produce – that is, those types of produce that were tested and found to contain high levels of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.  The list also provides a list of 15 of the “cleanest” produce varieties, in a downloadable and printable business card format for ease in shopping.   I call this the produce shopper’s best friend.   If you can’t afford to buy all organic, or not all varieties are available at your local store, use this guide to help shop for the varieties that are “cleaner” for you and your family.

Stop by and download the newest version, updated this week at EWG.org.

 

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Ten Thanksgiving Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning (and Ward Off the Flu)

Although it looks delicious, your food may be food of harmful bacteria that can make you sick.
Although it looks delicious, your food may be full of harmful bacteria that can make you sick.

The holiday season is typically celebrated by overindulgence of food and sweets and also coincides with the flu season. Contrary to popular belief, the number one cause of the common influenza bug is not the spread of germs from person to person, but poor gastrointestinal health, which creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and viruses to flourish in your gut. This makes you more susceptible to illness.

Americans generally overeat on many different types of foods during the holidays, many of which – let’s face it – are full of sugars and fats, and sit on the table for hours at a time while we go back for seconds and thirds, and a few more nibbles. By doing so, we disrupt the balance of good bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems and allow bad bacteria to create further disruptions that allow infection to set in.

Throughout the flu season (and also throughout the year), many experience what is called the “twenty-four hour flu”, which really is not influenza at all. In actuality, the 24-hour bug is usually a case of mild food poisoning, the symptoms of which are similar to influenza (chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness). Food poisoning is caused by the toxins present in the waste products of bacteria as they consume food and leave their droppings on the food you eat.

Bacterial growth occurs very rapidly between 41 degrees and 160 degrees, which is known as the Danger-Zone. Any perishable item kept in the Danger-Zone for more than 4 hours can develop enough toxins to make a person sick.

danger-zone

Unfortunately, while slaughterhouses, warehouses, shipping trucks and grocery stores have strict guidelines to maintain “the cold chain” and keep foods out of the Danger-Zone (whether or not they maintain this cold chain is something you have to take for granted, but is not always the case), once that food is in your grocery cart, maintaining “the cold chain” is up to you.

Follow these tips to ensure that your food is kept out of the Danger-Zone, thereby reducing your susceptibility to the flu this season. These steps will not prevent the flu, especially if you consume large amounts of sugars. Sugar is particularly harmful because bad bacteria and yeasts thrive on sugar in the gut. Try to reduce the amount of sugar you consume this holiday as well as eating lowfat yogurt every day to reestablish healthy bacteria like acidophilus, bifidobacterium, and lactobacillus or boosting your probiotic intake in other ways.

1. Buy your perishable items last while grocery shopping. With the extra-long shopping list, long checkout lanes and crowded aisles, you are going to be in the store for awhile. If you get your perishable items at the beginning, chances are it will be an hour or more until they are placed under refrigeration again. The four-hour time window starts the moment you pick up the item and it warms up over 41 degrees.

2. If you are buying a turkey or ham, be careful of which one you pick out. During the holidays, stores typically load their freezers full of meat, piling it higher than the case can actually refrigerate. If you pay attention to these cases, there is generally a “load line” clearly marked on the front and rear of the case. That load line indicates the invisible “curtain” of cold air that is produced by the refrigeration unit. Any birds or hams that are higher than the load line are actually out of refrigeration and, although they may be frozen, they can still produce “hot-spots” where bacteria will flourish. Dig for ones on the bottom, or below the “load line.”

3. The safest place to thaw a turkey is in a refrigerator, but this process takes several days. Buy your turkey early and place it on a large plate in the bottom of the fridge. This will prevent any drippings from contaminated good food, especially any raw food you may not cook before eating. DO NOT THAW the turkey on the countertop. Doing so puts the turkey in the Danger-Zone for a considerable amount of time. ONLY thaw a turkey by water if needed in the final stages, and only if the turkey will not be out of refrigeration over a half an hour to do so.

4. Proper storage in your refrigerator is critical as well. An overloaded fridge can create a great growing conditions for bacteria as the fridge struggles to maintain the correct temperature. If you have a second refrigerator, split the food between the two.

5. Injecting your meat can contaminate it by bringing surface bacteria into the center of the meat where cooking temperatures may not reach as high. Always rinse the bird thoroughly, inside and out before stuffing or injecting to prevent this from happening.

6. If stuffing your bird, be sure not to contaminate the stuffing from juices from the raw turkey. First, rinse the inside cavity well. Then use a separate bowl for spooning the dressing, and make sure to throw the leftover dressing (for the bird) away. Also, always use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat products or wash thoroughly before using with any other foods.

7. All poultry should be cooked to an interior temperature of 165 degrees or higher. Use a long meat thermometer and be sure to get to the center of the bird (if stuffed, the center of the stuffing) to get the right reading. Remember that the four-hour window applies to all leftovers as well, so constantly taking the foods in and out of the refrigerator and reheating will take time off the life of the food as well. Be sure to reheat all foods thoroughly.

***Note: No amount of cooking will prevent foodborne illness from food that has been in the danger zone for too long. Foodborne illness is not caused by bacteria, rather, from the toxins present in its waste. You get sick from bacteria’s poop.

8. Be wary of the food on the table or the hors d’oeuvre platter if it has been out more than a couple of hours. Refrigerate all foods as soon as possible or, better yet, make sure they are on ice while they are displayed.

9. If preparing casseroles or dishes to be warmed-up later, always cool down as quickly as possible. Do not simply let it sit on the counter “until it cools” as this will place the food in the Danger Zone for a long period of time.

10. If serving warm foods over a period of time, place it in a warmer or chafing dish to maintain its temperature at least above 150 degrees.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2008 in Food, Health & Wellness, Informational

 

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Recipe: Pumpkin Pancakes

Having guests over to stay for the holidays? Want to impress your family with a festive breakfast? Ever had those thick, fluffy, hearty pumpkin pancakes at a restaurant and wanted to recreate them at home? Don’t reach for that premixed box of ingredients, often containing partially hydrogenated oil. Start from scratch using all-natural, wholesome and organic ingredients. Try this simple recipe for a soon-to-be griddle favorite, which really puts the “cake” back in pancake! (the following is an adaptation from www.allrecipes.com)

Bet'cha can't eat more than two of these fluffy cakes.

Bet'cha can't eat more than two of these hearty cakes!

PUMPKIN PANCAKES

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Dry Ingredients:

2 Cups All-Purpose organic Wheat Flour

5 T. organic, evaporated cane Brown Sugar, packed

2 tsp. Rumsford Baking Powder (non-GMO)

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 1/2 tsp. organic ground Allspice

1 1/2 tsp. organic ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp. organic ground Ginger

two dashes of organic ground nutmeg

two dashes of organic ground clove

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

Mix all dry ingredients together thoroughly.

Wet Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 1 3/4 Cups Organic Whole Milk

1 Cup organic Pumpkin Puree

1 organic egg

2 T. oil

2 T. Bragg’s Organic, Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

1/8 tsp. Rondelle organic Vanilla Extract

Mix all wet ingredients together and combine wet/dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.

Drop batter onto heated griddle (medium heat) and flip once bubbles form. Pancakes will thicken quite a bit as they cook, so try to spread them out as best as you can when adding the batter to the griddle. Add a little milk and/or reduce the baking powder slightly if they are too fluffy. This batch made seven six-inch pancakes 3/4 inch thick.

Enjoy with pure maple syrup, but they are also sweet enough all on their own!

* Most baking powders contain starch from genetically engineered corn crops.

** Rondelle is manufactured in the U.S. and 100% of its operation is made possible by wind energy.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2008 in Food, recipes

 

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BPA leaches from ‘SAFE’ products

Originally called a radar range, the microwave heats food using a form of radiation.

Originally called a "radar range", the microwave heats food using a form of radiation. Using plastic in a microwave increases the number of harmful compounds transferred to your food - including BPA.

Our home came with a microwave oven, but we never – and I repeat – NEVER use it.

If we have to heat something up, it goes in a pan or in the oven. In my opinion, it is unnatural and unsafe to heat food up using microwaves. Some studies have shown that microwaving destroys nutrients, breaks apart vital enzymes, and changes the chemical structure of the food. (Now, it is true that traditional cooking does this, to some extent, as well.  Researchers are especially concerned because microwaves quickly and thoroughly degrade the food into non-bioavailable matter and turns the food into carcinogenic compounds.  Read this article to find several international studies regarding the dangers of microwave cooking.) With that said, I would never – and I repeat – NEVER heat up anything in the microwave in a plastic container. I do not like the idea of radiating my food with microwaves, which are related to gamma and X-rays, nor the idea of those waves causing plastic containers to release deadly chemicals into my food.

In my opinion, the food that manufacturers make to put into microwaves are barely “food” to begin with, let alone as a finished, microwaved product that has been destroyed by radiation. Michelle’s sister works at a day care, and the majority of the kids are sent to school with nothing but microwaveable meals everyday – breakfast, lunch and snack: Chef Boy Ar Dee mini meals, TV dinners, Hot Pockets, you name it. They’re all laden with preservatives, Genetically Engineered products, added synthetic vitamins (to make it healthier!), MSG, sodium and over-processed ingredients. I saw it as a grocery manager: more and more people are relying more and more upon microwaved foods. Gross. And we wonder why we get sick, feel fatigued, need to eat more, and suffer from a host of symptoms, all known to result from toxic chemical exposure.

In case you need one more reason NOT to use microwaves, it turns out that the estrogen-copycat Bisphenol-A leeches from plastic bottles when placed in a microwave – even those labeled as “microwave safe”.  Think of the poor infants who are being fed this way several times a day.   The age of convenience and technology is poisoning our future.  Read the following article for more:

The reality of one in every four will have cancer is that we are exposing ourselves at the earliest ages to dangerous chemicals.

The reality of "one in every four will have cancer" is that we are exposing ourselves at the earliest ages to dangerous chemicals that are known carcinogens.

MJ Sentinel: BPA leaches from ‘safe’ products

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger

Published November 17, 2008

Products marketed for infants or billed as “microwave safe” release toxic doses of the chemical bisphenol A when heated, an analysis by the Journal Sentinel has found.

The newspaper had the containers of 10 items tested in a lab – products that were heated in a microwave or conventional oven. Bisphenol A, or BPA, was found to be leaching from all of them.

The amounts detected were at levels that scientists have found cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals. The problems include genital defects, behavioral changes and abnormal development of mammary glands. The changes to the mammary glands were identical to those observed in women at higher risk for breast cancer.

The newspaper’s test results raise new questions about the chemical and the safety of an entire inventory of plastic products labeled as “microwave safe.” BPA is a key ingredient in common household plastics, including baby bottles and storage containers. It has been found in 93% of Americans tested.

The newspaper tests also revealed that BPA, commonly thought to be found only in hard, clear plastic and in the lining of metal food cans, is present in frozen food trays, microwaveable soup containers and plastic baby food packaging.

Food companies advise parents worried about BPA to avoid microwaving food in plastic containers, especially those with the recycling No.&ensp7 stamped on the bottom.

But the Journal Sentinel’s testing found BPA leaching from containers with different recycling numbers, including Nos.&ensp1, 2 and 5.

“There is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic,” said Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri researcher who oversaw the newspaper’s testing [emphasis mine].

The American Chemistry Council disputed the findings, saying publishing the results amounts to a “serious disservice by drawing a conclusion about product safety that simply cannot be drawn from either this study or the overall body of scientific research.”

Food company officials say the doses detected in the tests are so low that they are insignificant to human health.

“These levels are EXTREMELY low,” wrote John Faulkner, director of brand communications for Campbell Soup Co. Tests of the company’s Just Heat & Enjoy tomato soup showed its container leached some of the lowest levels of BPA found. “In fact, you might just be able to find similar levels in plain old tap water due to ‘background’ levels. We are talking 40 to 60 parts per trillion (ppt). What is 40 to 60 ppt? 40 to 60 seconds in 32,000 years!”

But the Journal Sentinel identified several peer-reviewed studies that found harm to animals at levels similar to those detected in the newspaper’s tests – in some cases, as low as 25 parts per trillion. Scientists with an expertise in BPA say the findings are cause for concern, especially considering how vulnerable a baby’s development is and how even tiny amounts of BPA can trigger cell damage.

Harm done during this critical window of development is irreparable and can be devastating, they say.

“This is stuff that shouldn’t be in our babies’ and infants’ bodies,” said Patricia Hunt, a professor at Washington State University who pioneered studies linking BPA to cancer.

Scientists say BPA and other chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system do not act like other toxins that become more potent as their doses increase. BPA behaves like a hormone. It mimics estrogen with effects that are ultra-potent. Even tiny amounts can trigger cell change.

[please read the entire posting at ewg.org]

Other posts re: BPA by Withonebreath:

That Chemical Cocktail is Killing You

Canada Bans BPA; US FDA Under Attack From Critics, Scientists and Lawmakers

The Body Burden: Toxic Chemicals in Our Bodies

Also see:

“Microwave Water Kills Plants” For what it is worth, this is an experiment conducted by a child. Her finding was that the microwaved water killed her plant. This was only one plant and was not a double-blind experiment, so anything could have gone wrong. It’s likely that this was a fluke, but it is, nevertheless, an interesting experiment.

“The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking” @ http://www.health-science.com

 
 

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Great Gift Idea for the Wine Enthusiast

sommelier

Michelle and I have used and enjoyed a product called “the Perfect Sommelier” for a number of years now. This device actually comes in two parts: a base to place the bottle upon, and a top to replace the cork. Both parts of the sommelier contain strong magnets, and when the bottle is placed between the magnets, the wine is subjected to the magnetic forces between the two parts. This process of “magnetizing” the wine has been known to produce a mellower, rounder, more complex wine, similar to aging the wine for years in a cellar, in just thirty minutes.

In our experience, the sommelier works on all types of wine, but is particularly effective on any red wine. The effect of magnets on wine has been known for some time, dating back to the early 1900’s when people began serving wine in magnetic cups. It was discovered that young wines and particularly lower quality wines responded to magnetization by softening the bitterness and sharpness of the tannins present in wine. Since red wines are higher in tannins, this makes sense that red wines respond better.

Every time we open a bottle, we always pour a “control” glass of wine and then let it sit while the Perfect Sommelier works its “magic” on the bottle. After a half an hour, we taste the control glass first, being sure to reflect on the nose and bouquet as well as the taste and finish. Without fail, we always notice a significant difference between the control wine and the wine that sat on the Perfect Sommelier. For example, we opened a very inexpensive bottle of wine last night, which possessed a very sharp and tart nose as well as taste. The finish was dry, but also bitter, indicating an excess in acids and tannins. It was decent enough for us to purchase it after a tasting at the grocery store; however, after being placed on the sommelier for thirty minutes, the aroma and flavor changed dramatically. The “magnetized” wine’s nose was far less tart, and more rounded. The taste was also less acidic, and the roundness was noticeable in the overall taste as well.

We simply do not drink wine without using our Perfect Sommelier, and urge you to try it as well!

If you have a wine enthusiast in your family or group of friends, this may be the perfect gift idea for Christmas. Normally retailing for about $47, this sommelier is currently on sale for the holidays at 15% off and with free shipping at www.perfectsommelier.com.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2008 in Food, Informational

 

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The Terrible Truth About Trans Fats

After years of touting the safety of margarine and products like Crisco® over traditional butter and lard, health professionals and scientists have reversed their position on trans fats by one-hundred and eighty degrees. Trans fats are now believed to be one of the largest contributors to coronary heart disease and stroke. This has led some restaurants and manufacturers to voluntarily remove trans fats from their menus and product ingredients, and the banning of trans fats in restaurants in two major U.S. cities and one state. What is the alarm? What are trans fats? How much trans fat does the average consumer ingest? How much dietary trans fats should one consume?

High-pressure hydrogenation system for producing partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils.

High-pressure hydrogenation system for producing partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils.

Short History of Hydrogenation

In the early 1900’s, German chemist Wilhelm Normann developed a process of hardening liquid vegetable oil using the process of hydrogenation, which chemically introduces extra hydrogen atoms to the fatty acid molecules present in the oil. Basically, this process is performed by heating the oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. This chemical alteration of the oil produces a slightly harder oil (semi-solid) at room temperature, called partially hydrogenated oil. This process can also change liquid oil into a completely solid state, which is known as hydrogenated oil.  Both partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils are known as  trans fats. Nearly a decade later after Normann patented this process, Proctor & Gamble bought the rights to Normann’s hydrogenation facility and marketed the hydrogenated oil commercially, known as Crisco®.  (Note: Some oils, like coconut oil, are naturally solid at room temperature and should not be confused with the artificially-produced trans fats.)

In Jan

From Wikipedia: "In January 2007, faced with the prospect of an outright ban on the sale of their product, Crisco® was reformulated to meet the US FDA definition of "zero grams trans fats per serving" (that is less than one gram per tablespoon)"

Crisco® (and later, margarine) enjoyed much popularity for many years, especially after doctors and scientists began asserting the dangers associated with the consumption of saturated fats, especially those found in butter and lard.  These common substitutes for oil are very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, however, Crisco®, as well as other hydrogenated oils, is produced from monounsaturated oils and contains no cholesterol.  Proctor and Gamble capitalized on this, pushing Crisco® into millions of pantries, assisted by the giveaway of free cookbooks calling for Crisco® in every recipe.  In addition to making the oil appear healthier, the hardening process also makes the oil shelf-stable for much longer than traditional oils, making it resistant to rancidity. Hydrogenated oils are also much less-expensive than traditional animal-based products like butter.

Manufacturers soon learned that using hydrogenated oils made their products appear healthier (because of reduced saturated fat and cholesterol), helped them control their production costs, and increased the shelf-life of products containing them, therefore increasing the manufacturer’s profit margins. This resulted in the universal use of hydrogenated oils in nearly all processed foods.  In recent years, however, doctors, health officials and scientists have done a complete 180-degree turn with regard to their position on the safety of trans fats, now stating that the traditional animal fats like butter are far healthier in comparison to hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. Why is this?

New Information Regarding the Safety of Trans Fats

As it turns out, the process of hydrogenation changes the chemical structure of the oil in a very fundamental way, making it appear, act and respond in the body more like a saturated fat. (Saturated fats are believed to be a large contributor to coronary heart disease.) New studies indicate that trans fats are even more dangerous than normal, saturated fats because the change in the chemical structure of the fat produces an artificial that the body does not recognize and cannot process effectively.  According to one source, “One long-term study of more than 80,000 women showed that, compared to carbohydrates, every 5 percent increase in saturated fat consumption resulted in a 17 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease, while every 2 percent increase in trans fat resulted in a 93 percent increase” [emphasis added]. That is a remarkable increase in the prevalence of heart disease versus a lesser amount of saturated fat. Recent studies also indicate that consumption of trans fatty acids increases blood LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) levels, while simultaneously lowering blood HDL-cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).  This is a double-whammy to one’s circulatory health.  Each of these factors alone increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but together spell big trouble. The American Heart Association reports that CHD results in 500,000 deaths each year and is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fats also increase the amount of triglycerides in the blood, which contributes to plaque along the arterial walls, increase lipoproteins, another form of LDL-cholesterol, and causes inflammation as it appears that trans fats “damage the cells lining blood vessels“. In addition, consumption of high amounts of trans fats increase the prevalence of diabetes, immune disorders and obesity, although much more research is needed in order to make a formal, official statement linking cause and effect. Another article I discovered at a prostate cancer survivor website had this to add about trans fats:

“Brian Olshansky, M.D., a cardiologist and University of Iowa Health Care professor of internal medicine, ‘involves putting hydrogen atoms in the wrong place. It’s like making a plastic.’

‘The problem with trans fatty acids is that your body doesn’t know what to do with them,’ Olshansky said in a press release in 2003 which we carried on this page. ‘Trans fatty acids may help preserve food so that it tastes good, but your body can’t break them down and use them correctly,’ Olshansky said. ‘Normal fats are very supple and pliable, but the trans fatty acid is a stiff fat that can build up in the body and create havoc.’

Now, I do not assume that Dr. Olshansky is a chemist so the statement about trans fats being like “a plastic” should be taken with a grain of salt.  However, what he says about the body’s inability to process trans fats is important to note.

FDA Changes Nutritional Labeling Requirements for Trans Fats

All of this bad press has led to the banning of trans fats in restaurants in at least three U.S. cities (Philadelphia, New York, and Tiburon, California) and the subsequent reformulation of hundreds of products by product manufacturers such as Kraft and Proctor & Gamble. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also began new product labeling requirements in 2006, requiring companies to disclose the amount of trans fats in their products. The new regulations require the amount of trans fat per serving to be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel, in a separate line directly below the saturated fat content. Trans fat content is to be expressed as grams per serving to the nearest 0.5-gram increment below 5 grams, and to the nearest gram increment if that amount is above 5 grams. If the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 gram, the content is to be expressed as 0. The important point here is that the product may still contain trans fats, as long as the amount is less than .5 gram per serving, and the label will read zero grams. (source *.pdf)

The new nutritional label requires the listing of total trans fat, per serving.

The new nutritional label requires the listing of total trans fat, per serving.

A Deceiving New Label

This new requirement is deceiving in many ways. First of all, the unaware consumer may be led to believe that the product they are consuming contains no trans fats. One sure way to tell is to read the label and look for “partially-hydrogenated” oil or “hydrogenated” oil. If the product contains either of these, it also contains the artificial “bad” fat, trans fat. Secondly, the labeling makes calculation of total dietary trans fat impossible. Many foods that contain hydrogenated oils are snack foods, and oftentimes the serving size is relatively small. Most people consume at least a serving of these types of foods every time they eat them. If the product contains .45 grams of trans fat per serving and lists zero grams on the label, and if one consumes two or three servings, they just consumed nearly a gram and a half without knowing it. Move on to the next product which has been deceptively labeled in this manner and it becomes impossible to know how much one has consumed. And just how much trans fat is okay? Doctors and health officials have stated that no amount of trans fat is safe, while the FDA asserts that one should not remove trans fats from one’s diet because poor health could develop! Early drafts of the regulations also called for an asterisk (*) in the column for recommended percentage daily allowance, with a warning to consume as little trans fats as possible. This requirement was later dropped.

How much trans fat is bad?

As the studies indicate, even a small amount of trans fat has an exponential effect on the rate of heart disease. According to one source, the National Academy of Science has concluded that “there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. There is no adequate level, recommended daily amount or tolerable upper limit for trans fats. This is because any incremental increase in trans fat intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease.” Because of this fact alone the current labeling requirements are insufficient and give consumers a false sense of security. Under these current regulations, I recommend that consumers read the product ingredients and avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils. As you look, you will be shocked at how many products contain this dangerous fat.

This is one reason why the FDA issued a statement that one should not remove trans fats completely from one’s diet: “According to experts, eliminating trans fat completely from the diet would require such extraordinary dietary changes (e.g., elimination of foods, such as dairy products and meats that contain trans fatty acids) that eliminating trans fat could cause an inadequate intake of some nutrients and create health risks.” This is an astonishing statement. The FDA also states that the average daily intake of trans fats is about 5.8 grams. If one’s diet includes fast food, crackers, chips, desserts, candy, and margarine in higher than average amounts, this number can easily double. This short ten minute video focuses on trans fats. As it explains, trans fats are an artificial fat that the body simply does not know how to process. It ends up getting stored (one of the reasons it is believed to correlate with obesity) or it clogs up the system as is found in arterial plaque build-up.

The above quote really drives home the point that even the FDA recognizes that this artificial fat is found in so many prepared and processed foods that it is extremely difficult to avoid eating it altogether. If you eat out at all it is even more difficult, but this is changing due to customer demands for healthier cooking oils.  Luckily, many restaurants are changing their product formulations to remove trans fats.  In light of the aforementioned FDA standards of “zero grams of trans fat” per serving, one should be especially wary of ingesting incremental amounts of trans fats that bypass this requirement by shrinking the portion size.  Keep in mind that the average consumer eats more than the suggested serving size.

KFC Chicken is one of the largest offenders of trans fat use.  Combined with their use of MSG in everything, my suggestion is to avoid this restaurant altogether.

Certain restaurants like KFC and Jason's Deli now boast "Zero Grams of Trans Fat" per serving in their foods.

Sampling of Trans Fat Content in Common Restaurant and Pantry Items

To illustrate the widespread use of trans fats even better, consider this list of common food items:

One McDonald’s® large fries contains 8 grams of trans fat

A McDonald’s® apple pie contains 4.5 grams of trans fat

Four Girl Scout® shortbread cookies contain 1.5 grams of trans fat

A large order of KFC® Popcorn Chicken contains 7 grams of trans fat (prior to being reformulated)

KFC’s® Chicken Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans fat (prior to being reformulated)

A typical 3-piece KFC® Extra Crispy combo meal, with a drumstick, two thighs, potato wedges, and a biscuit contains 15 grams of trans fat (source of the above) (prior to being reformulated)

1 TB Stick Margarine contains 3 grams of trans fat

A 42.5 gram bag of potato chips contains 3 grams of trans fat

1 Fried Doughnut contains 5 grams of trans fat

A standard candy bar contains 3 grams of trans fat

One slice of pound cake contains 4.5 grams of trans fat (source)

One Pillsbury® crescent roll contains 1.5 grams of trans fat (source)

Ready-made frostings contain 1 gram of trans fat per 1 tablespoon (source)

Although some restaurants are making changes to reduce or eliminate trans fats, there is currently no requirement alerting the average American consumer of the dangers associated with the food they are eating in restaurants! Would you eat a box of fries that carried an image of the skull and cross bones on the packaging, or a black box warning against coronary heart disease like one sees on a carton of cigarettes? You can be an informed consumer, however, and ask your favorite restaurants if they use partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, or shortening in the foods they offer. Many restaurants have been forced to make the switch from trans fats because of negative customer reaction. This past summer, California became the first state to ban trans fats in all restaurants. That’s a step in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the above information is enough to make you a more conscious shopper when it comes to the safe foods you eat and feed your family. It may be natural to disregard some of the new information regarding trans fats, after all, they told us the same things about butter many years ago and now they are telling us its good. Until more studies are performed and the results scrutinized by the medical community and health professionals, I always encourage consumers to err on the side of caution, especially when some of the data indicates such a higher prevalence of health problems associated with trans fat consumption. Remember that nutritional labels are misleading and confusing. Do not try to gauge your trans fat intake going by the label alone. Read the ingredients and scan for partially- or fully-hydrogenated oil. If either are present, the product contains trans fats, but was probably re-formulated by the manufacturer to get below the limit set by the FDA’s labeling guidelines. In this case, assume that the product has nearly .5 gram per serving.

For more information on fats, click here.

More information on trans fats can be found at www.bantransfats.com and, for what it is worth, at the FDA’s own site at www.fda.gov.

The Straight Dope on Trans Fats

ABC News Article on Trans Fats

The Fit Shack article on Trans Fats labeling

Medicine.net article on Trans Fats

FDA News

 

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