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Understanding the ban on trans fats

Q. My mom’s been baking with vegetable shortening for decades. Now I hear that this kind of fat is being banned. Why would they do that to her pie crust after all this time?

A. You’re right, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it wants to get trans fats out of the American diet — because they’re dangerous. You’re also right that moms like yours (and prepared-food manufacturers) have been making pie crusts, cakes and cookies with partially hydrogenated oils, which is what trans fats are, ever since the vegetable shortening Crisco was introduced in 1911. Consumers today spend more than $10 billion a year on prepared cakes, cupcakes, cookies and brownies. Virtually all those treats contain trans fats.

But in the past 20 years, there’s been a lot of research on the dangers of trans fats, and major health organizations, including the Institute of Medicine, say it’s not smart to consume ANY. We agree. We’ve both spent countless hours trying to combat the bodily damage that trans fats cause. Dr. Oz has seen what they do to his cardiac patients on a daily basis, and for years Dr. Mike at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Center has dealt with obesity-related problems that come in part from a prevalence of trans fats in food.

It’s estimated that banning trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks annually. We say it also can reduce the incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, dementia and sexual dysfunction.

We all should be glad the FDA has taken this step. But banning trans fats will take a while; we’re in a 60-day review period, and if the FDA does act, it may take two to five years to phase trans fats out of our food. So, until they’re gone, watch out for partially hydrogenated oils on ingredient lists and trans fats on nutritional labels. Trans fats (one of the Five Food Felons) still are found in some frozen foods, baked goods, frostings, coffee creamers and microwavable popcorns, among other items. And avoid unpackaged baked goods and deep-fried restaurant foods; they’re often made with trans fats.

Q. My kids love all the packaged foods they see on TV. And it occurs to me that they don’t know what real food is. Is there a way to change that?

A. You’re in control of what’s on the menu in your house, so there’s a lot you can do to make your kids aware of the great tastes in natural, healthy food. But we’re not saying it’s easy.

Most of the $4.6 billion spent yearly on fast-food advertising targets your kids. The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity’s new report says children see three to five TV ads for fast food every day. So when ads come on, talk to your kids about the real content of various food products and what kinds of food are better for their health and happiness. (If you need a crash course to do that, see our 99-second edition of “YOU: On a Diet” at www.sharecare.com.)

Another great way to get kids into good-for-them foods is to take them to local farms that are committed to healthy farming. We figure “E-I-E-I-Ohhh” is Old MacDonald’s refrain because he heard 30 percent of kids in one survey thought cheese came from plants, and half didn’t know bacon came from pigs.

The website www.localharvest.org /organic-farms/visiting offers info on local farms you can visit. And more than 2,000 schools nationally have developed farm-school initiatives (check out KYFCompass.com — that’s Know Your Farmer — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

Your kids will get excited about picking apples, planting basil ... and walnut harvesting is fun (see it online at www.walnuts.org). Then it’ll be easier to get them involved in grocery shopping and cooking. Planning, cooking and having family meals together is a powerful way to reduce the risk of obesity, keep kids off drugs (really!) and improve their nutrition for a lifetime of better health.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@)sharecare.com.

King Features Syndicate



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