The labels started appearing on packages some time ago: “0 trans fats” or “free of trans fats.” And from perhaps a minority of people knowing what trans fats are we find a substantial percentage now being well aware of the dangers in them.
Among those familiar with the dangers is the federal Food and Drug Administration, which has announced its intention to ban trans fats over a gradual period of time. It’s a smart and needed move.
Polls show that a substantial percentage of people think trans fats should be banned, but a large percentage believe they should not be. One suspects the latter percentage would dramatically decrease, however, if people read the FDA’s contention that 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths per year could be prevented if trans fats are banned.
Trans fats help prolong the shelf life of foods, something obviously of benefit to restaurants and families who like to stock up. And trans fats in some cases make food more flavorsome and give it better texture. But 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year? We’ll do without a little extra flavor.
This is the age of extensive labeling, and the truth is that the consumer who keeps an eye on gluten, sugar and sugar alcohols, carbohydrates and cholesterol probably is reading labels for trans fats. All that information may not help digestion, and sure, it might destroy the guilty pleasures of snack cakes and cookies with enough preservatives to survive a nuclear attack, but it will help more people stay healthier and survive into old age.
Giving up trans fats in exchange for a chance at longer life seems a pretty worthwhile tradeoff.