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Published: Monday, 3/19/2007

University of Toledo food supplier invokes partial ban of trans fats

BY JENNI LAIDMAN
BLADE SCIENCE WRITER
UT students who get part of their calories at university cafeterias
like this one have the opportunity to make healthier choices
now that their food supplier has reduced the use of trans fats. UT students who get part of their calories at university cafeterias like this one have the opportunity to make healthier choices now that their food supplier has reduced the use of trans fats.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Beware the donut and shun the french fry.

They pack more potential trouble than even the amount of calories they contain.

Although that is advice that we should follow in most circumstances, students at the University of Toledo no longer have to worry about fries as a source of trans fats a manufactured form of fat that is proving more dangerous than even heart-unhealthy saturated fats.

AVI Foodsystems Inc. of Warren, the company that provides some 4,800 meals daily to UT students, eliminated trans fat-containing oils in frying and in salad dressings, said Rosalyn Emerson, AVI district marketing manager.

We re not completely trans-fat free, she admitted. It s still showing up in some baked goods.

AVI isn t alone in its trans fat clampdown.

Canada voted to phase-in a ban of trans fats. New York City barred them from city restaurants.

And the nation of Denmark eliminated them completely. Reynald Debroas, director of child nutrition for Toledo Public Schools, says trans-fat-free meals are the rule in the district s lunchrooms.

In the meantime, McDonald s still uses trans fats, although it promised to eliminate them four years ago, and Bob Evans newest menu items, the stacked and stuffed hotcakes, post trans fat levels some six times higher than recent recommendations by the American Heart Association.

So what s the fuss? We know fats are bad. Why are trans fats attracting special notice?

The American Heart Association report on cardiovascular disease in women issued earlier this month, recommends trans fat be limited to less than 1 percent of our daily diet or about 2 grams of trans fat in a 2,000 calorie diet.

Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring food manufacturers to list trans fats on labels.

But, the FDA allows products with less than a half-gram of trans fat to show zero trans fat on its nutrition label. Considering how unsafe trans fat consumption is, most health advocates advise shoppers to also check ingredient lists for mention of partially hydrogenated oils, which are trans fats, and avoid them.

The allure of manufactured trans fats to commercial food manufacturers is great.

Trans fats have a longer shelf life than other fats, and can be solid at room temperature think margarine, most of which contains trans fats.

But evidence shows that trans fats are even worse than saturated fats.

They are more potent than saturated fats, said Frank Repka, associate professor emeritus at the University of Toledo Medical Center the former Medical College of Ohio.

The PhD nutritionist said trans fats contribute to higher cholesterol levels by reducing the number of places where your body can pull cholesterol from the blood stream.

This happens at special receptors in your liver for the so-called bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein or LDL.

Saturated fat inhibits production of those receptors, but trans fats are even more potent, six to seven times more potent than saturated fat, Mr. Repka said.

So while cholesterol-lowering drugs work by increasing the number of receptors in your liver for LDL cholesterol, saturated fats inhibit production of receptors, and trans fats shut down receptors at a six to seven times greater rate.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine last April reviewed much of the research on trans fats, and concluded that trans fats appear to increase the risk of coronary heart disease more than other macronutrients, conferring substantially increased risk at low levels of consumption.

Those bad effects start when trans fats make up no more than 1 to 3 percent of the daily diet, the article says.

The New England Journal article said the relation between the intake of trans fats and the incidence of [heart disease] reported has been greater than predicted by changes in [cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream] alone, suggesting that trans fatty acids may also influence other risk factors for [heart disease.]

People should avoid foods with trans fats as a matter of personal responsibility, said Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner.

We can t ban it, as we learned; we can t ban smoking either. Even though it s bad for you, we aren t allowed to.

Could municipalities and cities? They have the ability. Would they want to?

That would be up to them, Dr. Grossman said.

Contact Jenni Laidman at: jenni@theblade.com.



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