http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/16/opini ... ref=slogin
Nuggets of Death
By NINA TEICHOLZ
Published: April 16, 2006
IT'S never pleasant to learn that an artificial substance in your food might be ruining your health. This is what happened with trans fats when they were "discovered" in the food supply a few years ago, after a high-profile lawsuit against the makers of the Oreo cookie (laden with trans fats, who knew?) captured headlines nationwide.
The publicity pushed the Food and Drug Administration to require that trans fats be listed on package labels starting this year. Producers of cookies, cakes, crackers, frozen foods and margarines, all high in trans fats, thus had an incentive to eliminate them from their products. But Americans would be better protected if the F.D.A. would limit trans fats in all foods.
The problem with the labeling regulation is that it does not cover restaurant fare and other unpackaged food. This giant loophole was exposed by Danish researchers who collected and analyzed food from 20 countries, and whose results were published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found that there are far more trans fats in McDonald's meals in the United States than in the same McDonald's fare in most other parts of the world.
Trans fats, which are basically a form of hardened vegetable oil, are a staple ingredient in our foods because they're cheaper than butter and they guarantee a long shelf life. Trans fats are also easily manipulated, able to give a Goldfish cracker its crunch, for instance, or make frosting creamy.
Trans fats are worrisome, however, because more than any other macronutrient in the diet they not only raise L.D.L., the so-called bad cholesterol, but also lower H.D.L., the good. (Saturated fat, in contrast, raises both kinds.) A daily intake of five grams of trans fats increases the risk of contracting heart disease 4 percent to 28 percent, various studies have shown.
Consuming that much trans fat is far too easy. The Danish study found that a large order of McDonald's French fries in the United States contains almost six grams of trans fats, while a large portion (10 pieces) of Chicken McNuggets serves up almost four grams. Eaten together, they deliver nearly 10 grams of a substance considered so unhealthy that the National Academy of Sciences concluded, in 2002, that the only safe amount of trans fats in the diet is zero.