NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Assertions of Trans-Fatty Acid Dangers Stand on Shaky Scientific Grounds

September 9, 2002

A report released this summer by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine concluded that no amount of "trans fats" is safe to eat. But since that would eliminate margarine from our diets, along with shortenings -- including vegetable shortenings -- it was obvious trans-fatty acid intake would be unavoidable. That prompted the institute to recommend that consumption of the suspect acids "be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet."

But other experts contend these recommendations don't have much scientific substance.

  • There is no evidence at all that trans fats increase heart disease risk in humans.
  • In the much-vaunted Framington Heart Study, it was establish that participants whose cholesterol decreased had the highest risk of a heart attack.
  • Research by Harvard University's Walter Willette fails to link trans fats with heart disease -- although he continues to believe there is such an association.
  • Science writer Gary Taubes pointed out in his recent New York Times Magazine article, "What If Fat Doesn't Make You Fat," that the notion that dietary fat was bad was a political and business judgment -- not a scientific one.

Many dietary experts think that fat has gotten a bad rap -- another victim of junk science.

Source: Steven Milloy (Cato Institute), "McJunk Science," Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2002.

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