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Again: 'Trans-fat free' does not mean 'good for you'

July 25, 2008 |  1:31 pm

Newdoughnuts_2Can you say "hydrogenated oils," boys and girls? Here's an easier way: trans fats.

Now that you can pronounce the name (which even sounds fun and decadent -- in a synthetic kind of way), bid these rich friends farewell. They are already harder to get in nationally marketed products, and California's governor has told the state's restaurants to find something else to put in their food.

Oh, sure, synthetic trans fats help foods stay fresh longer and give them that nice mouth feel that people so love. (It's OK to admit you liked Oreos even before the recipe changed. Who wouldn't?)  And from pretty much any perspective, trans fats beat lard. Alas, they also raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and just generally muck about with your heart, as the Mayo Clinic notes.

So the ban is hard to argue with from a health standpoint. But please -- please, please, please -- remember that "no trans fats" isn't another way of saying "eat more." Because something has to replace those fats. And it's probably not going to be vegetable fiber.

The bill's backers may have been trying to protect those Californians overly reliant on fast food and that's a fine goal to be sure. But if you're thinking the change is carte blanche to engage in care-free gluttony, think again. Can you say "saturated fats"? Here's another way: also bad.

Check out this primer on fats from the American Heart Assn. And then go buy yourself some nice olive oil.

For a comprehensive look at the trans-fat saga, here's Zero guilt?, about our early enchantment and growing disillusionment with the stuff. And here's a list of possible replacements: For substitutes, scientists look to the old and the new. And, heck, just to keep you on your toes: Natural trans fats may be good for you.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Dunkin' Donuts has already removed trans fats from its products. They're still great, but healthful?

Credit: Lisa Poole / AP