Saturday, February 12, 2005

Real fats, please!


...[Dunkin Donuts'] doughnut specialist, cannot find a way to make one that tastes good without using partially hydrogenated oil, now considered the worst fat in the American diet.

An artificial fat once embraced as a cheap and seemingly healthy alternative to saturated fats like butter or tropical oils, partially hydrogenated oil has been the food industry's favorite cooking medium for decades. It makes French fries crisp and sweets creamy, and keeps packaged pastries fresh for months.

But scientists contend that trans fat, a component of the oil, is more dangerous than the fat it replaced. Studies show trans fat has the same heart-clogging properties as saturated fat, but unlike saturated fat, it reduces the good cholesterol that can clear arteries. A small but growing body of research has connected it to metabolic problems.

So far, only the most health conscious consumers are shopping to avoid trans fat. But food companies are betting that will change when the labeling law takes effect, and they have already spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get rid of trans fat without changing the taste of America's favorite processed and fast foods.

"Whoever's on that list of products with trans fats is going to be sweating bullets," said Harry Balzer, vice president for the NPD Group, a consumer research company based in Port Washington, N.Y.

At least 30,000 and as many as 100,000 cardiac deaths a year in the United States could be prevented if people replaced trans fat with healthier nonhydrogenated polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils, according to a 1999 joint report by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

This and other studies led the government's top medical advisers for the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences to declare in 2002 that they could not determine a healthful limit of trans fat, as they had for other dietary fats. The following year the government approved the labeling law.

Give me real butter, real cream, real olive oil, real macadamia nut oil, heck, even real lard...

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