Your fast food does not have to kill you

You can have your french fry and live longer, too.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Whenever an interest group or government official has stood up in the last year to suggest making food healthier, there has been a predictable backlash.

You can't do that. It's un-American, Big Brother telling us what we can do. I'll give up that french fry when you pry it from my cold dead hand.

Well, Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard and two colleagues from the Center for Science in the Public Interest have a reply to that.

You can have your french fry and live longer, too.

Their letter to the New England Journal of Medicine is teasing a larger study of food and health, but it has an important message.

With a little jawboning, McDonald's cut the trans fat in its french fries to zero, and cut saturated fat nearly in half. Gorton's cut out the trans fats without adding to the total fat load on their fish sticks.

Drop by Mickey D's at lunch today and see if you notice a difference.

Trans fats, if you have forgotten, are most often presence in things like shortening and margarine, which have been chemically treated to make them shelf stable. Trans fats do occur naturally, but only in small quantities. When these products first came out they were thought to be heart-healthy -- President Eisenhower was famously given margarine after a heart attack.

Things are not yet perfect. The American Heart Association recommends just 16 grams of saturated fat per day in a 2,000 gram per day diet. Even one order of those McDonald's fries will give you one-quarter of your daily load of fat.

But it is the large order.

The news isn't all good. Grocery foods are actually increasing total fat in order to make up for limits on trans fats. An Entenmann chocolate donut (I have sinned many times in this regard) now has more than twice the fat it did before, because the company swapped extra saturated fat for the trans fats.

Next up on the health jawboning list is salt. The plan is to encourage a slow reduction in salt, roughly 10% a year, until levels fall to those of 30 years ago

We'll see if the industry cooperates and, more important, whether you can tell the difference.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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