Trans Fat Bans Growing

By: Lauren Zakalik
By: Lauren Zakalik

Cookies, chips, and fried chicken. They're addicting, they're tasty, and they all have trans fat. Trans fat is a byproduct of certain fatty oils, and it has one major purpose:

"For greater product stability," says MSU food science expert Dr. Gale Strasburg. "Trans fat helps in longer product shelf life."

But Monday, Kentucky Fried Chicken announced it'll soon be phasing trans fats out of their fried chicken and potato wedges. That news came right after New York City announced it may soon become the first major U.S. city to ban trans fat in restaurants. Dr. Strasburg says this is a step in the right direction.

"Studies have shown higher levels of trans fat impact cholesterol levels, they raise levels of the bad cholesterol, or the LDL, and lower levels of good cholesterol," he says.

Chicago and Boston are also looking to jump on the trans fat banning bandwagon. But Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says a city-wide trans fat ban is unrealistic for Lansing.

"It's not something I would see the city of Lansing doing," Bernero says. "I wouldn't make it a priority as mayor. To me, that's something the legislature should be doing. The legislature is to look at the general welfare."

A trans fat ban may not be happening in Lansing any time soon. But that doesn't mean Lansing residents wouldn't benefit from something similar.

"Everyone agrees Lansing has problems with obesity," Bernero says.

Michigan's adult obesity rate is almost 26 percent, making it the 11th heaviest state in the country. And Michigan ranks 13th in the nation for adult diabetes.

The FDA also reports the average American consumes almost 5 lbs of trans fat per year. But Dr. Strasburg says these numbers are moderately misleading. Trans fat appears even in healthy foods, like yogurt and milk. Completely eliminating trans fat in foods is virtually impossible, he says. But watching food intake is important.

"Look on the labels. Look for zero trans fat foods. There's always going to be a line on the nutrition facts specifically for trans fat."

Like almost everything else in life, trans fat is okay, just in moderation.


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