by Jeff Clemetson, Editor
Health and Fitness Talk thought it would be a good idea to look back at the top stories of 2013 and shine a light on the year in health. Although there were some modestly good news stories about health in America, like the obesity rates slowing down or plateauing in most states, there seemed to be so many more bad news stories, like GMO labeling initiatives getting beat at the polls. All seemed lost for that feel-good health story of 2013 until November when the FDA did something surprising and announced that it would ban trans fats from the country’s food supply.
In case you don’t know, trans fats are made from vegetable oil which has been turned into a solid form. Although trace amounts of trans fats are found in some meat and dairy foods, they are not normally found in the natural world. Trans fats raise LDL cholesterol and are associated with a number of health problems, from heart diseases to Alzheimer’s, so it is no wonder that the FDA would ban them. But their sudden action begs the questions – why did it take so long and what does this mean for other dangerous ingredients in processed foods?
Trans fats used to be used in every imaginable junk food – buttery popcorn, potato chips, donuts, etc. The health risks of eating trans fats have been known for some time, however the FDA dragged its feet on regulating them because junk food producers have lobbyists fighting any kind of regulation that would shed light on just how bad our food really is in America.
But just as with MSG before it, public awareness of the dangers of trans fats made consumers change their habits. Soon companies began removing trans fats from their food and, more importantly, began labeling their products as having zero trans fats. Our snack foods might not be clearly labeled for all the other crap that goes into them but nearly every bag of chips or crackers now has the “contains zero trans fats” label boldly printed on the front for all to see just how much more healthy the junk food is today than it was before.
This may seem a bit deceiving but it is actually good news for healthy foods advocates. You see, it proves that public awareness campaigns work and that they can effect change. MSG went down because of a public awareness campaign. Now trans fats have taken the bullet. With growing awareness about the health and environmental dangers of genetically-modified foods, perhaps next year I will be able to write about how 2014’s feel-good story was a ban on GMOs.