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Diabetes Update: Trans Fat

Number 46; October 4, 2002

By David Mendosa


This newsletter keeps you up-to-date with new articles, columns, and Web pages that I have written. I list and link most of these on my Diabetes Directory at www.mendosa.com/diabetes.htm

Sammy Mendosa

Sammy Mendosa

From time to time Diabetes Update may also include links to other Web pages of special interest.

My most recent contribution is:

  • Trans Fat
    Sometimes what the experts tell us to eat is wrong. Very occasionally they will admit their mistake and tell you that what you were doing before they butted in was fine.

    No, I’m not talking about the high carb diet that most healthcare providers tell those of us with diabetes is what we should eat. Nobody’s eating crow over that one, even if it’s clear that it would be lower glycemic.

    What the medical establishment is saying, however, is that they made a big, deadly mistake when they said we should switch from butter to margarine. Now, half a century later, after untold thousands or millions of us died prematurely, they admit that the trans fat in most (but not all) margarines is even worse that the saturated fat in butter. It’s not that saturated fat is good for us, but rather that no amount of trans fat is.

    Margarine is just the tip of the iceberg. The statistic that blows my mind is that 40 percent of all the food products that you can buy in a supermarket contain trans fat.

    That’s the bad news. The good news is as the man said, we’re from the government, and we are here to help you. This time he wasn’t lying, even if he could have done better. The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine in July issued its long-awaited “Letter Report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Trans Fatty Acids” at http://www.iom.edu/iom/iomhome.nsf/WFiles/TransFattyAcids/$file/TransFattyAcids.pdf.

    “There is a positive linear trend between trans fatty acid intake and total and LDL cholesterol concentration, and therefore increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease], thus suggesting a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of zero,” the report concluded. Then, lacking the courage of their convictions, they pulled back prematurely.

    The problem is that there is some naturally occurring trans fat in meat and dairy products. But about 95 percent of the trans fat in our diet is man-made in the form of hydrogenated oils.

    “Because trans fatty acids are unavoidable in ordinary diets, achieving such a UL would require extraordinary changes in patterns of dietary intake,” the report continued. “Such extraordinary adjustments may introduce other undesirable effects (e.g., elimination of foods, such as dairy products and meats, that contain trans fatty acids may result in inadequate intakes of protein and certain micronutrients) and unknown and unquantifiable health risks may be introduced by any extreme adjustments in dietary pattern. For these reasons, no UL is proposed. Nevertheless, it is recommended that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.”

    I would not be the first to fault the Institute of Medicine for failing to distinguish between natural and man-made trans fat. It could have set a UL of zero for hydrogenated oils. But it didn’t, and consequently the FDA, which will almost certainly require the amount of trans fat to be listed separately on the Nutrition Facts panel within the next few months, will go a long ways toward rectifying the bad advice of half a century, but also will not go far enough.

    “The NAS report did not provide a Daily Reference Intake value for trans fat that would be needed to assist the agency in providing other information on the label, such as a Daily Value for trans fat,” the FDA says at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/labtrans.html. “Therefore, FDA intends to scale back its proposal and take a more incremental approach to provide for trans fat labeling that is consistent with the available science. For consumers to now have information that follows the Academy’s recommendations, FDA will publish a final rule requiring the mandatory declaration of trans fat content within the Nutrition Facts panel. However, similar to declarations for mono- and polyunsaturated fats, no % Daily Value will be listed on the label. The agency hopes to publish the final rule early in 2003.”

    My new article “New Label for Worst Fat: the Secret Fat—Unmasked” in the October 2002 issue of Diabetes Wellness News, covers these issues, albeit a bit more gently. It also covers the particular dangers to people with diabetes from trans fat and tells how to avoid it even before the FDA helps us. The article is also on-line at http://www.mendosa.com/transfat.htm.

  • DiabetoValens
    A quick way to build a big Web site is to copy the best Web pages you can find on other sites. Then, when people complain about copyright violations, say you’re sorry. This looks like the strategy of India’s biggest diabetes Web site, DiabetoValens. I review this new site for my “About the Internet” copy on the website of the American Diabetes Association at
    http://www.diabetes.org/main/community/info_news/web/default.jsp.

Updates:

Announcement:

  • The most recent edition of Diabetes Forecast - Live! focuses on “When Your Child Has Diabetes.” Diabetes Forecast - Live! is a monthly webcast brought to you by the American Diabetes Association and the HealthTalk Diabetes Education Network. You can hear Todd Zeile of the Colorado Rockies, who has a daughter with diabetes; Dr. Linda Siminerio, co-author of Raising a Child with Diabetes; and Maria Eidelman, mother of two children with diabetes. They discuss strategies on how to cope with your child’s diagnosis and parenting issues that arise when dealing with your child’s diabetes. For more information, please visit http://www.diabetesforecastlive.com/edition18/index.html.

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