The quality of baked goods and processed foods is slated to take a hit over the next few years, since the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has decided that trans fats will be phased out of the foods we enjoy. But a new study has exposed the trans fat worry as junk science-based.
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are solid at room temperature. Some are natural and some are manmade. They have been long been a key ingredient in products like margarine, doughnuts, microwave popcorn, cookies, coffee creamers, ready-to-use frostings and much more. Trans fats help make products creamy and have a much longer shelf-life than their alternative, lard.
Where did the trans fats scare come from? As it became obvious in the 1990s that the health scare over dietary saturated (animal) fats was entirely bogus, a couple of Harvard researchers decided to shift the scare over saturated fats to trans fats.
Walter Willett and Albert Ascherio thus began a crusade to demagogue trans fats. They published a number of studies and then published reviews of their own studies condemning trans fats as a cause of heart disease. The studies were readily embraced without question by the food nanny establishment, which never misses a chance to scare us about the food we eat.
Eventually, a panel of food nannies at the National Institute of Medicine concluded that there was “no safe level” of trans fat consumption. Finally last June, the FDA revoked the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status for trans fats claiming that eating food with trans fats “increased risk of coronary heart disease by contributing to the buildup of plaque inside the arteries that may cause a heart attack.” The same ill-fated claim had been previously made about saturated fats, which is why consumers switched from butter to margarine in the first place.
Now come government-funded German researchers who have had the guts to publish in the European Heart Journal their politically incorrect and myth-shattering results.
Studying more than 3,200 people for an average of ten years, the researchers measured the trans fatty acid composition of their blood cell membranes and compared those levels with cardiac disease outcomes. Neither natural nor industrial trans fats were statistically associated with adverse cardiac outcomes.
This is not unexpected as there never has been any credible evidence that trans fats are associated with heart disease. The Willet/Ascherio series of studies were all exercises in cherry-picked statistical noise. No study contained reliable data on how much trans fats (or really anything else) any study subject consumed or what other confounding risk factors for heart disease the study subjects may have had. No heart attack had ever been biologically or medically determined to have been caused by trans fats.
While clinical studies indicate that eating trans fats temporarily raises LDL (so called “bad”) cholesterol and temporarily lowers HDL (so-called “good” cholesterol), this is a transient physiological phenomenon without demonstrated long-term effect. Not only does no one really understand cholesterol — despite the “good” and “bad” monikers any physiological effect (even drinking water) can be mindlessly extrapolated into a health risk.
Time has nothing but expose food nannies for the frauds they are. Long-demagogued animal fat, cholesterol, and salt, for example, have all been rehabilitated by science and reality, though they remain lodged in the fact-free food nanny doghouse.
Like all successful long-term grifters, the government-funded food nanny establishment has been able to survive despite its many failures because it has been able to successfully shift public focus from one new scare to another. By the time reality catches up with the old scare, the new scare is already way down the road, with a gullible and/or complicit media greasing the skids.
Consumers pay a heavy price from these scares through misplaced and unnecessary worry, higher food costs, fewer choices and worse tasting food. Billions of dollars of taxpayer money are spent propping up scares in order to maintain the reputation of the government-university food nanny industrial complex.
Cut its funding. Cut the scares. Pass the doughnuts.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com (@JunkScience).