Health

Trans Ban: Severe and Ineffective

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Yesterday, New York City issued the nation's first municipal ban on trans fats in restaurant cooking. As dramatic as this embargo may seem, it's addressing just one part of a huge, complicated problem, and it's unlikely to accomplish much.According to the city's Board of Health, trans fats are the most dangerous of fats because they raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and drive down levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. But according to the American Heart Association, saturated fat, not trans fat, is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. Americans consume approximately four-to-five times as much saturated fat as trans fat by eating foods such as beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, cheese, and milk—ingredients constantly used in restaurant cooking that are also rich in cholesterol, another major culprit behind heart disease. And don’t forget the salt shaker sitting on nearly every restaurant table in New York City. Sodium intake exacerbates hypertension, "the silent killer" that plagues one third of adult Americans, upping probabilities of heart attack and heart failure. And then of course, there is obesity. 20% of Americans are obese and thus at greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, and diabetes only compunds cardiovascular problems. So we have multivariable health problem and a finely focused policy strategy. The Board of Health should step back and look at the bigger picture.

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