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Trans fats

Trans fat restriction in Denmark offers success story for similar initiative in New York City

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: trans fats, hydrogenated oils, food ingredients


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(NewsTarget) Two years ago, authorities in Denmark made it illegal to produce food with more than 2 percent trans fats, imposing hefty fines and even prison terms against violators, and consumers have said that foods are not poorer for it.

This notion dashes the claims of food producers who claim that removing the ingredient will change certain tastes and textures that consumers love. Trans fatty acids have been shown to lower HDL (good) cholesterol while simultaneously increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol, and less than five grams a day has been linked to a 25 percent increase in heart disease risk.

"No other fat at these low levels of intake, has such harmful effects," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Harvard's School of Public Health.

So far, Denmark is the only country to impose a stringent restriction on trans fat. The government said the reasoning was that people don't think about trans fats when they are hungry, and restricting it at the production level means that consumers don't have to keep an eye on their foods' ingredients.

"We wanted to protect people so that they would not even have to know what trans fat was," said Dr. Steen Stender, a leading Danish food expert who lobbied for the anti-trans-fat law alongside colleagues.

Along with food producer's taste and texture concerns, some members of the European Union felt the law would impose an unfair trade restriction, but the law passed regardless.

"There's no reason it cannot be done elsewhere," Stender said. "If you removed trans fat from the planet, the only people who would feel the difference are the people who sell the trans fat."

Currently, the New York Department of Health has proposed a ban on the ingredient in foods sold within the city, but food lobbies are opposing the ban, claiming that small amounts of the ingredient are not harmful. At least one natural health author disagrees, and said that New York should look to Denmark's restriction as an example.

"Denmark's ban on hydrogenated oils was a resounding success," said Mike Adams, author of Poison In the Food," a report on the health dangers of hydrogenated oils. "It goes to demonstrate that when a city or nation wants to protect its population from this dietary poison, the transition away from trans fats is smooth and easy to accomplish.

"The food industry, which is fighting this ban, tries to portray it as extremely disruptive and complicated. In reality, the industry just doesn't want to go through the effort of reformulating its products," Adams said. "It would rather subject consumers to another decade of dietary poisons than spend a little money and effort makings its products safer for everyone."

While two years is not long enough to register how the trans fat restriction has affected the health of Denmark's populace, the health ministry reports that cardiovascular disease has dropped 20 percent since 2001. Other countries that are regulating food and tobacco industries, and emphasizing the need for exercise are seeing similar results.

Although Denmark's obesity rate continues to climb, it is still one of the lowest in the world at just 11.4 percent of the population in 2005, compared to 23 percent of the population in Britain. In Hungary and Bulgaria, among other countries that have no programs in place to limit trans fat, heart disease rates continue to rise.

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