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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine September 2003

The White House Urges Greater Omega-3 Consumption

It took seven years of intensive litigation to force the FDA to recognize the value of fish oil. There are too many new compounds that may prevent and treat disease to allow a central bureaucracy with a proven track record of failure to continue making life and death decisions for the American public.

Until recently, it was a criminal offense to promote omega-3 fatty acids to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Now the White House is encouraging the FDA and other Federal agencies to do more to enlighten consumers about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the dangers of trans fatty acids. The invariable question is, will future Presidential administrations encourage Americans to follow health concepts that the FDA is suppressing today? Are scientific pioneers sitting in American prisons whose original ideas will later show to be medically correct?

A free market solution
The consequences of not reining in the FDA’s police powers are premature death for almost everyone reading this column. An alternative we have long advocated is for the FDA to state its opinion about any food, drug, nutrient, hormone or medical device on its website (www.fda.gov), but not have the power to arbitrarily shut down and imprison those with novel concepts that have not yet been FDA approved.

Consumers who want government “protection” could insist on only using FDA-approved products, while those who want to be more aggressive could experiment with products that would specifically state on their labels: “Not Approved By The FDA.”

This free choice system would release the creative energies of physician-scientists whose new ideas are presently silenced by fear of FDA persecution. We believe the result of this greater freedom would be a marvelous medical renaissance.

The FDA survives because of an apathetic American public who has grown so used to government incompetence that they feel little can be done to change it. The Life Extension Foundation, on the other hand, has proven that positive changes can occur at the Federal level if enough citizens speak up.

As a member of The Life Extension Foundation, you belong to an elite group who possess the knowledge to differentiate scientific authenticity from the political hyperbole long espoused by the FDA.

For longer life,

William Faloon.

Trans Fats Are Everywhere!

Trans fatty acids are found in vegetable oils that are hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is an industrial process, which is used to convert liquid cooking oils into semi-solid fats. The process alters the characteristics of the fat such that they are more suitable for use in large-scale food manufacture. These hydrogenated oils are found in many processed foods and baked goods, making them almost impossible to avoid. Trans fatty acids act as artery-clogging saturated fats in the body.

Avoiding trans fats may be difficult for the average consumer because the amount of trans fat in foods is not identified on their labels. It is included however in the total fat reported. The french fries, fried chicken and doughnuts from fast food outlets all contain high levels of trans fat. Trans fat is found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies and many other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated fats.

Foods that can have lots of hidden trans fat:

Fast food: Most fast-food and family-style chain restaurants cook fries, chicken and other deep-fried foods in partially hydrogenated oil, which often comes in a solid block that’s melted in the fryer. They also slather margarine—which is trans fat—on griddles for pancakes and grilled sandwiches. To get an idea of how much trans fat is in fast food, consider a KFC Original Recipe chicken dinner. It has 7 grams of trans fat, mostly from the chicken and biscuit. Even if the chains use some of the newer liquid, non-trans oils for frying, fries are sometimes par-fried in trans fat before they are shipped to the restaurants.

Baked goods: This is the heaviest trans fat territory. Most mass-produced convenience and commercial bakery goods like cookies and cakes have plenty of trans fat. Cakes and shortening-based frostings from supermarket bakeries are particularly trans-heavy. So are doughnuts, which can contain shortening in the dough and also be cooked in trans fat. Generally, the higher quality the baked good, the less trans fat, because more butter is used.

Chips and crackers: To keep them crisp, manufacturers pump crackers full of shortening. Even crackers labeled “reduced fat” can still have trans fat. Watch for anything fried, like potato chips and corn chips, as well as “buttery” crackers.

Spreads, sauces and mixes: Margarine can be pure trans fat. As a general rule, the softer the margarine, the less artery-clogging fat it contains. There are some trans-fat-free spreads on the market and increasingly are labeled as such. Watch out for high trans-fat levels in nondairy creamers and flavored coffees, as well as in ready-made dips, including some bean dips, whipped toppings, gravy mixes and products like Hamburger Helper. Cake, biscuit and cornmeal mixes can have several grams of trans fat per serving.

Unexpected places: Breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, some energy bars, tortillas, microwave popcorn, fish sticks or other breaded frozen foods all can contain trans fat. So can some puddings and peanut butters, where it is used to give a creamier consistency. Frozen foods like pot pies, frozen pizzas and other entrees, even if labeled as lower in fat, are often made with trans fat. Very high levels can be found in packaged instant noodles like ramen and soup cups.13

To uncover the trans fat in food, try the following steps:

Method 1: Check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil of any kind. These oils contain trans fats. The closer to the top of the list, the more trans fat. Check commercial baked goods (such as crackers and cookies), frozen foods and margarine, especially stick.

Method 2: Check the Nutrition Facts label to see if the product lists total, saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. If it does, you can figure the grams of trans fat. Here’s how:

  1. Add the grams of fat listed under saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and mono-unsaturated fat.
  2. Subtract this amount from the grams of total fat.
  3. The remainder, if any, is the grams of trans fat.

According to the Dutch research, trans fat in the diet can cause even more health problems than saturated fats. Using a “cross over” design in which healthy subjects ate a diet containing trans fat or saturated fat for four weeks and then switched to the opposite diet for four weeks, several cardiovascular events were affected. When the subjects ate the trans diet their blood vessels dilated 29% less efficiently, and blood levels of HDL or “good cholesterol” was lowered by 20% compared to when subjects ate the diet rich in saturated fats. Trans fat has also been shown in other studies to raise the levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol” and may also increase total serum cholesterol.14

Trans fatty acids can damage arteries as much as saturated fats or even more and is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Studies have demonstrated that while both trans fats and saturated fats have a comparable effect on increasing low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, only trans fats lower levels of good high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, thereby making them potentially much more damaging than saturated fats.15

References

1. Garcia-Closas R, et al. Fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids and the Mediterranean diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 1993 Sep;47 Suppl 1:S85-90.

2. Iso H, et al. Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women. JAMA 2001 Jan 17;285(3):304-12.

3. Konard RJ, et al. Eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5) augments glucose-induced insulin secretion from beta-TC3 insulinoma cells. Pancreas 1996 Oct;13(3):253-8.

4. Tsuda H; et al. Demonstration of organotropic effects of chemopreventive agents in multiorgan carcinogenesis models. IARC Sci Publ (FRANCE) 1996, (139) p143-50.

5. Lai PB, et al. Cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells exposed to eicosapentaenoic acid in vitro. Br J Cancer 1996 Nov;74(9):1375-83.

6. Das UN. Essential fatty acid metabolism in patients with essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1995 Jun;52(6):387-91.

7. Thorngren M, et al. Effects of 11-week increases in dietary eicosapentaenoic acid on bleeding time, lipids and platelet aggregation. Lancet (England) Nov 28 1981, 2 (8257) p1190-3.

8. Okuda Y, et al. Long-term effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on diabetic peripheral neuropathy and serum lipids in patients with type II diabetes mellitus. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications (USA), 1996, Sep-Oct;10(5):280-7.

9. Sinclair AJ, et al. Marine lipids: overview news insights and lipid composition of Lyprinol. Allerg Immunol (Paris) 2000 Sep;32(7):261-71.

10. Yam D, et al. The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Harefuah 2001 Dec;140(12):1156-8, 1230.

11. Connor WE. n-3 Fatty acids from fish and fish oil: panacea or nostrum? Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Oct;74(4):415-6.

12. Dyerberg J, Bang HO. A hypothesis on the development of acute myocardial infarction in Greenlanders. Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl 1982;161:7-13.

13. www.healthy.net/asp/templates/news.asp?Id=5713.

14. de Roos NM, et al. Replacement of dietary saturated fatty acids by trans fatty acids lowers serum HDL cholesterol and impairs endothelial function in healthy men and women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2001 Jul;21(7):1233-7.

15. Oomen CM, et al. Association between trans fatty acid intake and 10-year risk of coronary heart disease in the Zutphen Elderly Study: a prospective population-based study. Lancet 2001 Mar 10;357(9258):746-51.