Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Passing Thought on Transfats

I was just going to post a short note apologizing for failing to post the essays  promised earlier, but then something struck me that I had to mention.

Recently, I heard quite a bit about recent science refuting the commonly held link between diet and cholesterol levels. It is quite conceivable, so i have no objection to the studies themselves, though I admit I have not looked at them so have no idea whether or not they are valid. However, assuming they are valid, it makes me wonder why we wasted so much effort on transfats, and, more important, why the government continues to regulate transfats and is even reducing the allowable amounts. After all, the main claim was transfats raised LDL levels horribly. (Forget for now the shaky science on which the original claims were based.) So, if cholesterol is not diet based, then why are we still banning or limiting transfats?

Ok, there were a number of individual, kind of fringy studies saying transfats also caused every disease known to man, just as appear with any food fad, from the salt scare (also now debunked) to the most recent anti-gluten fad. But I don't believe even the most ardent food regulators have made claims other than the LDL ones. So, if LDL is independent of diet, then on what grounds are transfats banned?

Not that I expect them to ever be allowed again. After all, almost all the claims about DDT were debunked, some even before the ban, and the EPA head even admitted the ban was largely political, but we still labor under that ban, even though it means we are left trying to fight malaria with mosquito nets, and cases have risen from a low (during DDT use) of thousands world-wide, back to millions, even tens of millions, of cases per year. So, compared to that madness, what chance is there transfats will ever be restored to our diet?

Which is one of the biggest problems with our bans. Even if they later turn out to be wrong, they never go away. After all, the public has been convinced each banned substance is the harbinger of armageddon in the lead up to the ban, and so, even if science says it is safe, the public won't listen. Either they have not heard the new research, since "X is safe" doesn't make the good copy that "X will kill you stone dead" does, or else they are convinced by our national paranoia that the studies are "bought by big business" and mean nothing. So any politician or regulator or other bureaucrat who tried to roll back a pointless ban would be committing political suicide. Which means, in the end, once something is banned, it will take an absolute miracle to see it return to use.

The one odd exception to this rule, and one I really never expected to see, is marijuana. Then again, the intelligentsia never bought into the scares about marijuana, mocking the "Reefer Madness" propaganda, and so there was not as much public fear about it. On the other hand, truly useful substances like DDT, and harmless ones like transfats, stay banned. What an odd world.

UPDATE (2015/06/18): While looking up another article I found this link: Transfats? Surprised I had not noticed it before.

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