On Thursday the New York Times announced a "ban" by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on trans fats, which they claim could prevent 20,000 heart attacks. Except that it may actually cause MORE cases of obesity, heart disease, liver damage, cancer, dementia and more.
How? Where trans fats go out, in like the tide comes high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
First, as Food Politics noted, this is not a "ban." The FDA took trans fats off the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list:
Contrary to the New York Times headline, this is not exactly a ban on trans fat. If trans fat is no longer GRAS, manufacturers can still file a food additive petition to continue using partially hydrogenated oils.
The Federal Register notice asks for input for the next 60 days.
Lobby they will. McDonald's has been a big trans fat fan and lobbied heavily for it in the past. According to the Wall Street Journal:
McDonald's pledged to reduce the trans fat in its food several years ago but hasn't yet done so because, executives have said, the company hasn't found a suitable replacement."
State and federal restaurant associations, other major fast food companies, snack makers, and food manufacturers from frozen pizza to doughnuts to microwave popcorn makers will likely be fighting the ban.
In some products it will mean the return of some saturated fats, which, in limited quantities, might be an improvement. In other products though, manufacturers courting the health-conscious will likely slide in super sugars as substitutes.
High fructose corn syrup was already put into a lot of foods as a fat substitute to reduce saturated fats and overall "fat." It's a package labeling dodge. You can market something as "lower fat" or "reduced fat" even though the HFCS will produce as much if not more fat when you consume it. Those who've already dropped trans fats from their goods usually add more of the even cheaper, more potent and toxic HFCS to compensate for them.
While trans fats are not good and certainly a welcome departure from the American diet, HFCS will kill more of us far faster than the trans fats.
Cheap processed foods get their market appeal from fats and sugars. Our brains are wired to the notion that things that are sweet are not toxic, and fat is satisfying and nourishing. Our two greatest food "pleasure" responses are to fats and sugars because they are the primary "fuel," the caloric energy which we burn to live.
The super sweeteners that we use today, though, go past being too much "fuel" to burn. They are poisoning us.
"High fructose corn syrup and sucrose are exactly the same," says Dr. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco. "They're both equally bad. Ok? They're both dangerous. They're both poison. Ok? I said it. Poison."
The studies the government used in its war on fats and heart disease did not account for all of the highly processed sugar that we eat as a large component of that problem, according to Lustig, whose YouTube video on the dangers of processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup has over 3 million views, and whose book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease is one of the major indictments of the corn agribusiness lobbies that keep high fructose corn syrup on the GRAS list.
Lustig also calls it "beer without the buzz," because your body processes glucose, the sugars commonly found in starches and other foods, really well, but alcohol and fructose end up being more poorly processed. They cause more stress and toxic damage to your body. They can damage your liver, causing cirrhosis and hyperlipidemia, which is high levels of fats in the blood. Other doctors suggest that it may be linked to cancer, dementia, and tooth decay.
All that your liver can do with beer or HFCS is make waste fat. It can't immediately burn HFCS as energy. So it's even difficult to exercise away the calories in a soda or some cheaply made jam that you consume.
It is a huge contributor to America's obesity epidemic because HFCS is like a speeding car without any brakes. HFCS strips away the fibers and acids in fruit that would cause you to get full faster, or irritate your stomach lining enough to get you to stop eating it before it reaches toxic levels. So you consume much higher levels of sugars than you would without the synthetic purification.
Writing "Mainlining Sugar and Salt: How Sucrose/Fructose Poisons World Diets," an article that I published earlier this year, I came to discover that the Nixon Administration's war on poverty and attempts to stabilize commodity prices on corn and sugar intersected at HFCS.
Its introduction stabilized sugar and corn prices and flooded the market with the sweetener from the 1970s on, unleashing supermarkets full of processed foods loaded with palate-appealing trans-fats and HFCS sweets, from frozen pizza and TV dinners, to breads and even flavor enhanced frozen vegetables in "sauce."
The FDA was created in 1906. Trans fats were first mass-produced in 1909. It's only taken the FDA 104 years to get around to developing the will to go up against the lobbyists who've kept it in our diet for more than a century. So it should be around 2074 before we can expect much action on the more toxic additive in our diets: HFCS.
So the majority of what will happen is one bad thing will be substituted for another. The fat you'll get from HFCS is much worse and harder to get rid of with exercise. In fact the only exercise that will work will be one by the mass-produced food industries' as they change the labeling a bit in another misleading shell game.
Unless they ban the twin-terror of HCFS, any claims by the FDA about the GRAS change of trans fats improving the public health are doubtful indeed.
My shiny two.