Trans Fats: Why Now?

Topics: Obesity and Weight Loss, Wellness and Health

New York City has banned trans by 2008, Loews Hotels will phase them out in 2007 (French Fries first, buttercream second, waffles and pancakes last), and at least one hospital, Windber Medical Center in Pennsylvania, has taken them off the menu, according to their CEO Tony Chen’s blog.

Trans fats (also found in shortening, pastry and dressings), raise LDL (lousy) cholesterol and lower HDL (healthy) cholesterol, hardening arteries from your brain to your gonads. Not that they’re connected.

Marion Nestle points out that trans fats are a distraction: if chain restaurants posted calories per dish next to prices on that big illuminated board, it would be a supersized no-brainer what to choose. But trans are an easy target…low hanging nutritional fruit which has already been picked elsewhere in the world.

In fact, posting calories is next, and should be–that’s what people really need. Even dietitians underestimate by over 35 percent how many calories are in fast food. Trans fats are only relevant to obesity because they are densely (9 calories per gram) caloric, and take up nutritional space that other, nutritionally-better foods might occupy, if you don’t want to be overweight.

In Japan, you can scan your purchase (or a wrapper, if you ask) and find out calories, fat grams and allergens, plus gluten (good luck with that!)(more later on knowing if you should be gluten-free).

Here is the McDonalds’ Japan page, translated to English

But until the West advances, use the fast food calorie counter for BK, McDee, KFC, Subway, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. It’s your meal — know what’s in it.