It’s in your peanut butter. It’s in your frosting. It’s in your Chex Mix.
It’s trans fat and it’s everywhere.
But, not for long!
Trans fat is going bye-bye. It was just banned by the FDA. (Yay!)
And when you’re through with this article, you’ll see why this is really, really awesome.
Why we First Fell in Love with Trans Fat
When trans fat was invented in the early 1900s, we immediately fell in love. Why?
For the consumer, it meant:
- Cheaper food — trans fat gives food a longer shelf life. Less waste leads to lower prices.
- Tastier food — trans fat improves spreadability and adds a smooth finish to the mouths it touches.
For Big Food companies, this meant:
- Cheaper inputs — increased shelf life means lower cost to make.
- Better sales — consumers generally prefer “the finish” of products with trans fat.
Consumers had more food they liked and saved money.
At the same time, Big Food companies made lots and lot of money.
Everybody wins, right?
Not so much. There are many long-term costs to trans fat that are not included in the equation above. Those costs have a big impact on your life.
But, before we go any further, here’s a refresher on what trans fat is and how to know if its in your food.
Trans Fat Refresher
Here’s the over-simplified summary for when you want to look like you know about the thing that was just banned by the FDA.
Trans fat was invented by a guy. His name is not important. (Sorry, Guy.)
Trans fat is the result of a process. The process goes like this:
- Take liquid fat.
- Add hydrogen (at high pressure and temperature).
- Get a solid fat.
The key here: It’s a process.
Trans fat is super processed.
Not all processed food is necessarily bad. But, this one is.
Now let’s discuss the important stuff.
How it’s labeled: Look for “partially hydrogenated.”Anything that’s partially hydrogenated is a trans fat.
What it does (short-term): Think spreadable, smooth and glossy. Crisco is the naked version.
What it’s in: Some frostings, some peanut butters, pie crusts, pancake mix, canned soups, salad dressings, microwave popcorn, and other brand name snacky stuff.
What it does (long-term): Gives you more visceral (belly) fat, lowers good cholesterol, raises bad cholesterol, raises food cravings. In other words, makes you slightly more miserable now and then kills you slowly.
What the FDA said: Trans fat has zero nutritional benefit. It is harmful to health and must be phased out of all food products by 2018.
The Cynical View
So the FDA banned trans fat. There is a deadline for it to disappear forever.
But do you think it actually matters?
Consider what happened to the music industry when Napster was shut down. Sure, Napster went away.
But then there was a near-perfect substitute that stepped right in to fill the void.
Won’t Big Food companies do the same type of thing? Won’t they introduce a replacement to trans fat that serves their needs? Something that:
- Improves taste experience?
- Increases shelf life?
- Isn’t (yet) banned by the FDA?
Maybe. They’ve already started phasing in palm oil as a replacement. Jury is still out on that one.
But isn’t an optimistic perspective a better approach?
7 Reasons to LOVE that Trans Fat is Going Away
Trans Fat will soon be a thing of the past. You should be thrilled because of the following.
1. You’re Gonna Lose Weight
It’s a crazy thing to think about. But the trans fat ban WILL help you lose weight.
Best part: You don’t have to do anything!
Yes, this makes several assumptions about what you eat today.
But with trans fat out of the food supply, it’s fair to say you’ll be up against fewer causes of belly fat.
2. You Will Live Longer
Now, I know this does not appeal to everyone.
But how can you say you don’t want to live as long as possible. At least longer than a shorter-than-average life, right?
With trans fat gone, there’s one less thing that causes your blood pressure to go up, your good cholesterol to drop and your bad cholesterol to rise.
Like data? We can expect to avoid 50,000 premature heart attack deaths EVERY YEAR. That’s like filling Yankee Stadium every year with people and telling them they won’t be killed today. Thrilling, right?
Translation: Less heart disease, more time with the grandkids.
3. More Money
This one is a bit abstract. But it’s simple.
Without trans fat there will be less obesity and heart disease.
Less of that crap means BIG savings for health care.
How big of savings?
The FDA estimates we’ll save 140 billion dollars over the next 20 years in health care costs.
Slowly but surely, that trickles down to you in the form of reduced health care premiums. This is true for employees and employers alike.
Note: Please don’t mistake my use of the term “trickle down” for anything political at all. It’s a fact that healthier people makes health care costs go down.
4. More Sex
With out trans fat in your food, you’ll have more energy and look (and feel) more attractive.
Simple as that.
And THAT, is a great recipe for a better sex life.
5. A Better Flying Experience
With trans fat gone, people will be a little less overweight.
So now that middle seat on your flight to LAX is slightly less tortureous.
6. Less Nagging
If you were already aware of trans fat and their crushing impact, chances are you’ve told a loved one to avoid it.
But didn’t it feel naggy?
You: “You know, you really shouldn’t eat THAT peanut butter. It has trans fat in it and those are bad.”
Loved one: “Aren’t all fats bad?
You: “They’re not the same at all. Some fats are good.”
Loved one: “Oh. But don’t you like this kind of peanut butter, too?”
You: “Yeah, you’re right. Never mind.”
Now, it’s MUCH easier.
All you have to do is say, “Hey, the FDA banned that crap. They gave Big Food companies three years to stop using it. Let’s stop now!”
7. Faith in the FDA
The FDA could stand for the Federal Disappointment Agency.
Too often, it seems like they really suck at their jobs. (Supplement regulation is a great example.)
Well, the FDA’s ineptitude is another topic for another day on another website. You’re not here to read about politics or bureaucracy.
Moreover, public health works very slowly. There are lots of forces against quick change.
But know this: The FDA’s banning of trans fat is a triumphent win for the American people in the war against Big Food.
You don’t need to wait the three years to ban it from your diet.
Some alternatives to store-bought products that definitely don’t have any trans fat:
- Cashew frosting.
- Homemade peanut butter.
- Coconut oil.
Some anti-trans fatesque Life is NOYOKE articles:
Trans Fat on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat
Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114
Artificial Trans Fat: On the Way Out! http://www.cspinet.org/transfat/
The Trans-Fat Ban as a Model of Slow Health Policy http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/the-trans-fat-ban-as-a-model-of-slow-health-policy/281299/