By BoLOBOOLNE payday loans

New York bans Trans-fats

I’m a little slow to re-report this, but but I find it fascinating so I want to share it in case you missed it.  New York City has banned the use of trans-fats in restaurants.  They’ve done this almost completely (a few exceptions for things like donut shops) and very quickly (by middle of next year) and extremely decisively.

I find this amazing for a couple of reasons.  First, it drives home the artificial nature of trans-fats.  I’ve thought of them as similar to saturated fats in a lot of ways — things that are everywhere but should be avoided.  But thinking about what it would mean to not use them in a restaurant makes clear that they’re not so omnipresent.  No crisco vegetable shortening, and no margarine.  Other than that, what ingredients have trans fats in them?  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil — I’ve never used that.  Have you?

I do want to mention olive oil a bit.  Olive oil is primarily a monounsaturated fat, which is a very healthy kind of oil.  Heating a monounsaturated oil like can turn it into a trans-fat.  Some have concluded from this that cooking with olive oil is unhealthy, and I admit I’ve spread this rumor too.  But from the little research I’ve managed to dig up (1, 2) this process doesn’t occur enough to be a real issue in traditional cooking settings.  I will say this research is thin and minds may change.

I’d like to say a bit about the chemistry involved here.  Trans-fats refers to the configuration of carbons on either side of a double-bond, or a place where the fat is unsaturated — it’s a trans rather than a cis configuration.  Cis fats have marked bends, while trans fats have kinks in otherwise straight chains. I’m guessing the reduced mobility of the unsaturated fats caused by
their bends are related to their health benefits, but I’m not sure.  Here are two monounsaturated fats, in cis and trans forms:

Cis fatty acid: oleic acid

Trans fatty acid: elaidic acid

Also, most of what I’ve been reading assumes that hydrogenation is the only way that trans fats can occur, which is wrong.  Industrial hydrogenation converts unsaturated double-bonds to single bonds, preferentially in the trans configuration.  But other chemical processes can do this too.  Cows naturally produce small quantities of trans fats.

This law is a great example the government taking a broader interest in society values than any individual constituent would.  The government pays for health care, so in this case they do have a direct interest in improving public health, and will likely see a benefit from this, so it’s not a perfect example of the principal I’m expounding.  In general, I think it’s the government’s responsibility to legislate things that are for the "long-term good of society" (in quotes because I recognize that it’s hard to define or agree upon).  This burden falls uniquely on the government when there’s nobody else who clearly benefits from this kind of legislation.  Environmental protection is a classic example of this — do things that won’t directly help us or our kids but rather our great grand-kids.  The Lorax spoke for the trees for the trees had tongues.  Today, NGOs tend to do that speaking, and sometimes the government listens.  I’m surprised, impressed and proud of New York for this bold move!

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