Voices 05/10/2009

Battle to ban trans fats

Harvard researchers confirmed that there is not any link between saturated fat and cancer, but found a strong link between trans fats and cancer. So, the real problem is with artificial trans fats, and other types of artificial foods.

Trans fats also contribute to the two main causes of heart disease: blood clots in the coronary arteries that can lead to sudden death from a heart attack, and atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries that interferes with blood flow.

Trans fats displace the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3), which the body needs for a variety of functions.

One of the most fiercest enemy of trans fat is Fred Kummerow, a 94-year-old University of Illinois veterinary biosciences professor emeritus who still conducts research on the health effects of trans fats in the diet.

Although Kummerow began publishing on trans fats in 1957, his efforts against trans fats in food began in earnest in 1968, when he urged the American Heart Association to ask the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils to have its members decrease the amount of trans fatty acids in shortenings and margarines, replacing them with essential fatty acids.

Fred Kummerow pointed out that the real harm was caused by trans fat in products like margarine. He also warned against soft drinks, which contained large amounts of sugar and pleaded for a return to traditional foods rich in saturated fats.

His last battle is a petition against trans fat. Kummerow's petition was filed Aug. 7, 2009. The FDA has 180 days to respond.

"Everybody should read my petition because it will scare the hell out of them," Kummerow said.

To reinforce his message, Kummerow keeps in his lab a sample of human arteries that are clogged with atherosclerotic plaque. Another unfortunate characteristic of trans fats is that they cause cells to increase calcium in the blood, which builds up in and narrows the arteries, the main symptom of atherosclerosis.

To view and comment on the petition, visit http://www.regulations.gov. Under "Enter Keyword or ID," type the petition docket number: "2009-P-0382" and click on the "Search" button. Once you get the results, scroll down the right-hand column and click on "Submit a Comment." Enter your information on the left and write your comment in the box on the right.

The full petition is also available at http://news.illinois.edu/WebsandThumbs/kummerow,fred/FDA-petition.pdf

di Alberto Grimelli