Why Illinois' proposed ban on trans fats should be stopped: Fact sheet

Publisher’s note: A bill has passed the Illinois House that would ban trans fats. Here is a fact sheet that can be used to debunk the ban. Click here for a PDF version of the fact sheet.

HB1600 (Trans Fat Ban) Should Be Stopped

Overview. Illinois House-passed bill HB1600 would ban bakeries and other food facilities from using trans fat-containing oils, shortenings, and margarines in spreads, baking and frying. The proposed ban is based on “junk science” and will produce no public health benefits.

Historical background.

  • What are trans fats? Trans fats are vegetable oils that are processed to be firm at room temperature. They’re found in vegetable shortening and foods cooked or made with shortening such as pastries, crackers and fried foods. They have been used in food preparation for 100 years — Procter & Gamble began selling the shortening Crisco in 1911. rans fat-based vegetable oils and margarine became the recommended substitute for butter and lard amid the 1970s-era alarm over a purported (and now debunked) link between saturated (animal) fats and heart disease.
  • How did trans fats become controversial? During the 1990s, two Harvard researchers, Walter Willett and Alberto Ascherio, began publishing a series of epidemiologic studies claiming to link consumption of trans fats with increased risk of heart disease. In 2002, the National Institute of Medicine issued a report warning that there was no safe level of trans fat consumption.
  • Enacted alarm. In 2006, New York City became the first jurisdiction to ban trans fats from restaurant-prepared foods. A few other local jurisdictions have since followed suit. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not taken action against trans fats, although product labeling is required.

Science and health background.

  • Do trans fats increase the risk of heart disease? There is no credible scientific evidence whatsoever showing that trans fats cause or increase the risk of heart disease.
  • What is the purported mechanism by which trans fats are supposed to increase the risk of heart disease? Laboratory studies indicate that blood levels of LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad cholesterol”) increase temporarily after trans fats are consumed.
  • Is this temporary rise in LDL cholesterol bad? Although chronic elevated LDL may increase the risk of heart disease, the increase in LDL from trans fat consumption is transient (temporary) and does not lead to permanently elevated LDL or heart disease. Importantly, heart disease is a complex, little-understood and multi-factorial phenomenon. The relationship between heart disease and LDL is not entirely understood as an elevated LDL level does not reliably predict heart disease.
  • What do studies of humans show? The vast majority of the studies of trans fats involving human populations (i.e., epidemiology) have been conducted by Willett and/or Ascherio. Despite their results purporting to link trans fat consumption with increased risk of heart disease, these studies are not credible because:
    • Statistical noise. Their results all fall within the realm of statistical noise, as determined by the traditional standards of science and statistics.
    • Garbage in, garbage out. None of the consumption and/or medical data in any of the studies is sufficiently reliable. No one knows how much trans fat any study subject consumed or over what period of time. No one knows the cause or nature of any of the heart disease among the studies’ subjects. Without these key data, it is impossible to attribute heart disease to trans fat consumption with any degree of confidence.

Are there other reasons to doubt the purported link between trans fats and heart disease?

  • The potential relationship of diet to heart disease risk is not well understood. Many common notions about diet and heart disease arising from the 1970s have proven to be false or at least more complicated than previously thought. Dietary saturated fat and salt, for example, are the not “killers” that they were touted as. Eggs and butter, in particular, were wrongly demonized. Dietary fiber is not a magic bullet for preventing heart disease. Consider the trans fat-relevant example of elevated cholesterol, long thought to cause heart disease and death. In the much-vaunted Framingham Heart Study — where 5,200 men and women in Framingham, Mass., have been extensively studied in over 1,000 published reports since 1948 — high cholesterol is not associated with increased heart disease risk after age 47. After age 47, in fact, those whose cholesterol went down had the highest risk of a heart attack.
  • Willett and Ascherio have single-handedly tried to railroad trans fats. Not only did Willett and Ascherio conduct most of the epidemiology studies on trans fats, they also published many of the reviews of the epidemiology —i.e., essentially applauding their own work. This runs against the traditional notions of the scientific method where study results are supposed to be replicated and reviewed by other, independent scientists.
  • Existing trans fats bans have accomplished nothing. There is no evidence that existing bans on trans fats have made anyone anywhere any healthier or reduced their risk of heart disease.

What is the harm is caused by a trans fat ban?

  • Misleading the public. Wrongly blaming trans fats for heart disease misinforms, confuses and angers the public. When butter was declared to be unhealthy, trans fat-based margarine was supposed to be healthier. Now butter is “safer” than margarine. People were wrongly scared off eggs for decades.
  • No substitute. While there are substitutes for trans fats in some products, for other products there are no substitutes, particularly in baking. This has lead to unacceptable product quality, customer complaints and product refunds. A trans fat ban would be catastrophic for professional bakers.

Recommendation. There is no scientific or public health basis for taking action against trans fats. A trans fat ban would harm the public and small businesses while producing no public health benefits whatsoever. HB1600 should be stopped and/or defeated.

14 thoughts on “Why Illinois' proposed ban on trans fats should be stopped: Fact sheet”

  1. I enjoy butter and bacon and Happy Hour…………..must be so annoying to others who get pleasure out of trying to frighten and control. I call it The Church of Don’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bans and Prohibitions always fail. The inevitable consequence of such is to create a Black Market rather than to discourage people with little enough respect for tyrants from getting thigs they want.
    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. “

  3. Hey Sam – I’m glad you kicked it. Some people should stay away from the booze. That’s separate from the trans fat argument. My problem with trans fats is the way they are produced. Our ancestors cooked foodstuffs but not at the temperatures of modern processing. It remains a worry to me. I stick to natural butter.

  4. I can Guarantee you that all those corpses from EGYPT or wherever that had clogged areteries,with no tobacco at that time,Was Caused By the WINES and all the JUNK MEATS THEY ATE…….

  5. Jr23
    I drank for 20 Years,My trycliderides were 1200,I quit it dropped down to 300..which is not good ,Buts it a heriditary thing..So in some cases nothing can be done about it,In My Case My DOCTOR told me to PUT DOWN THE BOOZE NOW…………………..Thats what it was ALCOHOL…Deadly Poison.And their is no such thing as this :
    DRINK RESPONSIBLY…ITS A LIE..One drink can Kill you…or SOMEBODY ELSE……..

  6. Well Sam I had sky high TRIGLYCERIDES and i do not drink at all.
    let people read the info and decide for themselves, state and especially
    local government should not make menu choices for individuals.
    I cannot see any reason to smoke anything.
    Alcohol in moderation can be OK too much is a problem,but prohibition
    only cost lives and corruption that continues today like the govs
    of Illinois, city of Chicago etc.
    Even eating the fattiest food occasionally will not hurt but if overdone a problem

  7. And the Funny part is they BAN SMOKING, It has nothing to do with HEART DISEASE EITHER…Its all a LIE…Lungs Maybe in EXTREME CASES…………Passive SMoke is a deadly as a BLACK ANT

  8. Its ALCOHOL,And A Fatty Diet that causes these DISEASES,First off ALCOHOL Makes the TRYCLICERIDES go through the roof in any Amount,FAT IN THE BLOOD…Bad for the HEART,Hot dogs,Pizza,Cheeses of all kinds…Fast Foods ALL GARBAGE

  9. “There is no scientific or public health basis for taking action against trans fats.”

    There is also no scientific or public health reason for promoting trans fats. The increase of heart disease in the early 20th century correlates well with the increased usage of trans fats. Trans fats are not metabolized well. Prior to the use of hydrogenation the only real source of trans fats was from the fat of ruminant animals, around 2% of fat consumption. Until just the last few years no studies of the effects of saturated fat on heart disease controlled for trans fats. So to my mind reducing the use of trans fats back to pre-hydrogentation levels is most likely a good thing. However, it would be better done by education than government fiat.

  10. Thanks Mike, But, I do believe Sam is just there to bait the conversation . . . . and I know this is soooooo rude but were I come from he is called Master Baiter!

  11. Sam,
    They tried that already and got a lot of people killed and mobs run amok

    They never learned and they are still trying.

    Look at all of the damage and loss of life the war on drugs is causing

    They need to stop trying to control the people and follow the Constitution of the US.

  12. A discussion of the function of the liver . . . might be of value . . .

    Cholesterol – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to Synthesis‎: About 20–25% of total daily cholesterol production occurs in the liver; other sites of higher synthesis rates include the intestines …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholesterol – Cached – Similar

    PS. Fats are soluble in ethanol!

  13. Why don’t they put a ban on the real DETRIMENT to ALL of society and that is ALCOHOL ? and why not stop serving it wherever children are present ? Yep thats a BETTER BAN

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