It’s time for our weekly “Everything You Eat Will Somehow Kill You” blog post. We all know the health consequences of eating fast food and oversized restaurant portions, and just last week we learned that many seemingly harmless grocery store products secretly contain trans fat. Personally, I’ve been avoiding all risk by subsisting on small berries and nuts I gather through urban foraging, and when I want to treat myself to an actual meal, I haven’t dared venture out of my chemical-free kitchen. But my extreme measures may be all for naught, as the FDA has revealed that cooking food at home—even the most organic of natural grains and vegetables—could kill us all.
Pardon my apocalyptic tone, but it’s true. Acrylamide—a chemical that naturally forms in foods prepared at high temperatures—is a carcinogen that can cause severe nerve damage in high doses. A scary fact when you consider the stuff “is found in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet,” according to the FDA in a release posted today.
Side note: acrylamide is also used as an industrial chemical in waste water treatment. Yum.
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As you know by now, trans fat is finally getting kicked to the curb. Trans fat, a packaged food additive also known as partially hydrogenated oil, is added to food for its preservative quality and contributes to artery clogging and cardiovascular disease. The FDA’s proposed ban hopes to prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease and 20,000 deaths from heart attack per year.
Over the next 50 or so days, the FDA will be pouring over scientific data to determine if trans fat needs to be removed from the GRAS, or “generally recognized as safe,” list of foods. If trans fat are indeed determined to not be GRAS, any food product with trans fat will be deemed illegal for sale in the U.S. Under current guidelines, if a food product contains less than 0.5 grams trans fat, shown as partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredients list, the nutrition label can claim it has 0 percent. Sketchy stuff.
Trans fat won’t disappear completely, as it naturally occurs in some dairy and meat products. But the artificial stuff—created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil—is lurking in many of the popular food items on grocery store shelves. Peanut butter, popcorn, and frozen foods are the more well known products that contain trans fat, but those are just the tip of this fatty iceberg. Soon, trans fat will be banished from the supermarket, but until then, we’ve compiled a list of the trans fattiest foods at your local grocer.
Betty Crocker Bisquick and Canned Frosting
- Kellogg’s: Corn Pops, Eggo Cereal, Honey Smacks, Smorz, Mini Swirlz Cinammon Bun, Rice Crispies Cereal
- General Mills: Basic 4
- Post: Cocoa Pebbles, Fruity Pebbles, Oreo Os, Waffle Crisp
Coffee Mate Coffee Creamer (Multiple Flavors)
Duncan Hines Cake and Cupcake Mixes
Nabisco Fig Newtons
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The FDA is finally stepping up to remove trans fat from a list of chemicals known as GRAS – or generally recognized as safe. This morning, the Food and Drug Administration opened up a 60-day public call for comments, scientific data, and other information they can use to help guide their decision to issue an all-out ban on trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oil.
“Based on new scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels, the [FDA] has tentatively determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, or trans fat, are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in food based on current scientific evidence establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat, and therefore that PHOs are food additives,” says the formal announcement made by the agency.
If this is finalized, the FDA says “food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell PHOs.”
That’s news that has the dietetic community happy as heart-healthy clams. We reached out to several thought leaders from the dietetic community to hear their reactions to the trans fat ban news first.
Those foods are suspect, not only because of the link between trans fats and cardiovascular disease, but because of wide-reaching inflammation from a host of artificial products. This could give people a reminder to eat real food. — Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert and a NYC-based dietitian
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Herbal supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, but do consumers really know what they’e ingesting? A new study shows that supplement pills may actually contain a high amount of filler including wheat and rice, the wrong herb entirely, and sometimes ingredients that are downright dangerous.
Canadian researchers selected popular medical herbs and then purchased 44 bottles of varying brands from 12 local stores. The products were tested by using DNA bar-coding. Their findings concluded that many bottles were mislabeled or diluted. A staggering one-third of the plants advertised on the bottle had been replaced with another plant entirely. Customers were not getting what they paid for, and they were often receiving products with ingredients that could have annoying and potentially lethal side effects.
We reached out to our resident registered dietitian, Mary Hartley, for her thoughts on the study. “If one-third of the supplements showed outright substitution, then this is a huge, huge supplement industry problem,” she said. “Not only are the supplements ineffective, but they may contain harmful ingredients.”
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My fellow Americans, I don’t want to alarm you, but the government is in official shutdown mode! On Monday, lawmakers were unable to agree to a budget and neither the House nor the Senate wanted to back down. The shutdown appears to stem from one source, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also referred to as, Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House is refusing to sign the budget unless they can add a stipulation that essentially pushes the ACA law back one full year.
Since the Affordable Care Act law was passed in 2010, some lawmakers have continued to criticize it publicly to any reporter or television camera that will listen. A common theme among ACA opponents is their love of the Constitution, though most Americans remain confused about what one has to do with the other. Last night on the satirical political talk show The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart summed it up nicely when he referred to the GOP/Obamacare fight as, “The End of America as We Know It for Reasons No One is Able to Clearly Explain.”
While the government shutdown is clearly about health care, how will it actually affect health care? In addition to the furlough of nearly one million civilian federal employees, the closing of national parks and passport offices, and the temporary stoppage of other government functions, this is what you need to know for the impact this will have on your family’s well-being.
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