The recent addition of trans fat information to the Nutrition Facts labels on food products, combined with news media reports and activists warnings, have brought these fats to the forefront of public concern. In a national survey conducted in November 2005, 81 percent of a representative sample of U.S. consumers reported being aware of trans fats, and 54 percent indicated that they were trying to decrease their trans fat consumption (IFIC Foundation, 2006). Putting the role of trans fatty acids (TFAs) into perspective can be difficult, both because of the intensity of the rhetoric surrounding them and because of widely varying claims about the extent of the health risk they pose.
1. Focus your efforts on things that matter; inform yourself about possible risks.
The May 29, 1999, issue of the British journal The Lancet includes a thoughtful letter from two physicians in the state of Washington who pondered how to respond when a patient asks "Doctor, is wine good for my heart?" Studies conducted in many parts of the world have consistently shown an association between the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages and a decrease in the risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). This relationship has been observed in both men and women and in different age, ethnic, and geographic groups. It is independent of dietary and other known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking and obesity.
Although most nutrition authorities recommend diets high in carbohydrates, some recent, bestselling books push diets very low in carbohydrate and high in protein and/or fat. In Protein Power Drs. Mary and Michael Eades advance a high-protein, very-low-carbohydrate diet. Another author, Dr. Robert Atkins, has developed a new version of his own very-low-carbohydrate diet. Atkins claims that a metabolic state called ketosis an abnormal condition characterized by an excess of metabolic intermediates (by-products) called "ketone bodies" is the key to losing weight. When blood glucose is in short supply, ketone bodies replace it as the main fuel for the brain and certain other tissues.
Whenever I have visited a physician over the last decade, the following scenario has been replayed: We discuss my cholesterol levels (total, LDL and HDL). We review dietary guidelines and other medical recommendations. Then I say, "Don't forget to remind me to drink a glass or two of wine daily." Invariably, the doctor demurs: "That hasn't been proven to protect you against atherosclerosis."