Cutting through the (trans) fat

A proposed ban could eliminate trans fat from New York City restaurants.

A new whipping boy has emerged in America’s continued efforts to get in shape. No, it’s not carbohydrates anymore. The new culprit is trans fatty acid, or trans fat, for short. In April, Harvard released a study that implicated trans fats as a leading contributor to heart disease. According to the study, eliminating trans fat from American diets would reduce the number of heart attacks every year by the tens of thousands.

Trans fats are commonly found in margarines, french fries, potato chips, doughnuts and snack foods. Our love of these products has certainly contributed to the ridiculous prevalence of heart disease in this country. Currently in the United States, 28 percent of all deaths are caused by heart disease. Eliminating trans fat certainly wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would make an impact on this growing problem.

These relatively new health revelations should help Americans make healthier food decisions in the future. However, in New York City, the Board of Health doesn’t want it to be optional. In response to the new findings, they’ve proposed a ban on trans fat in all 24,000 of the city’s restaurants.

The current estimates say that heart disease will cost America $142 billion in 2006 for health care, medicine and lost productivity. A ban on trans fat would reduce these costs and increase the health of New Yorkers, but many are up in arms about the perceived violation of individual rights.

People want to have the power to make choices about their own lifestyles, but this wouldn’t be the first time the government has made decisions regarding the health of Americans.

We have a tendency to ignore threats that don’t affect us immediately, and a single serving of trans fat isn’t inherently dangerous; it’s only through a lifetime of poor dietary choices that we notice the effects.

The real question is a question of when our government has the right to step in and regulate our health. With soaring levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, the answer might come sooner than later.