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Louisville and other cities looking into banning trans-fats from restaurants; Foods high in trans-fats

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:03pm
This week the city of Louisville (my hometown) is having forums on whether trans- fats should be banned from restaurants in Metro Louisville.  Health officials are pushing to make a recommendation to the Metro Louisville Council for a total or at least a partial ban to be enacted by the end of the year.  The council has a few options.  They could make a ban apply only to prepared foods in restaurants and bakeries, or extend any ban to prepackaged foods sold in vending machines and groceries. Or, it could make avoiding the use of trans-fats voluntary. 
cartoon on trans-fats banned from restaurants

Louisville wouldn't be the first major city to enact a ban on trans-fats.  New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston are among the cities have banned trans-fats in restaurant food. 

So why are cities banning trans-fats?  Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer fatty acid(s). Trans fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated but never saturated.  Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are not essential, and they do not promote good health.  The consumption of trans fats increases one's risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.  Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are more harmful than naturally occurring oils.  If that wasn't bad enough, many believe that trans-fats also increase the risk of dibetes, Alzheimer's, cancer, infertility, obesity and liver dysfunction.

According to, the following are what we need to know about trans-fats:
  • Don't eat any product which has the words "partially hydrogenated" or "shortening" in the ingredients list.
  • If the label says zero trans fats, don't believe it. If the words "partially hydrogenated" or "shortening" are in the ingredients list, it DOES contain trans fat.
  • Be careful when consuming products with labels from outside the United States. Sometimes they contain partially hydrogenated oil but it's not on the label.
  • In restaurants, bakeries, and other eateries, ask whether they use partially hydrogenated oil for frying or baking or in salad dressings. If they say they use vegetable oil, ask whether it is partially hydrogenated. Don't be shy about asking. Assume that all unlabeled baked and fried goods contain partially hydrogenated oil, unless you know otherwise.
  • Keep saturated fat intake low too. This is very important.
  • Remember that polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats are good fats.
  • Cholesterol that affects our arteries comes from two sources: (i) animal products and (ii) bad fats. If a product is "cholesterol fee," that doesn't mean that it won't raise your bad cholesterol. If the product itself contains no cholesterol but it does contain trans fat or saturated fat, it will raise your bad cholesterol.

Foods where you may find high amount of trans-fats:
  • Margarine and butter - loaded with trans fats and saturated fats
  • Packaged foods - some cake mixes, Bisquick
  • Soup cups - Ramen noodles, for example
  • Pound cake
  • Donuts
  • Cookies and cakes (with shortening-based frostings) - from supermarket bakeries have plenty of trans fat.
  • Frozen Food - frozen pies, pot pies, waffles, pizzas, even breaded fish sticks contain trans fat
  • Baked goods - more trans fats are used in commercially baked products than any other foods
  • Fast Food - fries, chicken, and other foods are deep-fried in partially hydrogenated oil. Even if the chains use liquid oil, fries are sometimes partially fried in trans fat before they're shipped to the restaurant.

There are some examples of companies taking out trans-fats from their products.  KFC has recently taken trans-fats out of their fried products with no resulting loss of taste or backlash.  Kraft eliminated trans fat from Oreos and reduced or eliminated it in about 650 other products.  However, some restaurant and bakery owners and the Kentucky Restaurant Association have expressed concern that a total ban on trans-fats could hurt their businesses. 

I think if there is an obvious healthier alternative (vegetable or palm oil, for instance) I think it is the right way to go.  The American Diet needs all the help it can get.  We shall what happens in Louisville.
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