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Food Manufacturers Looking For The Next "Healthy" Fat

Remember Olestra, the fat substitute used by food manufacturers in snack foods, in part marketed on the misconception that you must avoid all fats at all costs? And, do you also remember how sick people felt when they ate snacks with olestra in it?

You may not believe it, but industry is looking for that next "safe" fat yet again. But the president of one trade association, the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, admits the process isn't easy or cheap and it won't happen anytime soon either.

The reason food manufacturers are looking for a "new" fat: A FDA ruling last year that all packaged food products have to list on their nutrition labels the amount of trans fatty acids, or trans fat, they contain by January 2006. That ruling puts pressure on manufacturers to replace oils containing trans fatty acids before the deadline, company officials say, because no one wants to advertise another ingredient implicated in heart disease, along with the already required disclosures on saturated fat and cholesterol.

Although some companies have made the switch to other oils, others probably won't make the change in time for new federal guidelines, because alternative oils have their own health problems, are too expensive, or can't be substituted without changing the taste, texture or shelf life of a product.

Experts in the food and oil industries say it still could be five to 10 years before trans fats can be effectively replaced.

The industry efforts don't get a lot of sympathy from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which first petitioned for the labeling of trans fats 10 years ago and has called for an outright ban on their use. Studies have shown trans fat prompts increases in levels of bad cholesterol and decreases in good cholesterol.

Long-time readers of this newsletter know eliminating fats from you diet really isn't healthy for you. Fat is an essential substance for optimal health and it is actually grains and sugars that are to blame for much of the rampant health problems that exist today.

Washington Post September 1, 2004

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