From the Wall Street Journal:mj_photo.jpg

Before other cities decide to regulate diets absent a safety issue, they might also consider that some of the same people now pushing for a trans fat ban once recommended the ingredient as a substitute for another health scare: saturated fats. Twenty years ago, Mr. Jacobson’s CSPI launched a public relations blitz against fast food joints for using palm oil to cook fries. The group claimed victory when restaurants started using partially hydrogenated oil instead. In 1988, a CSPI newsletter declared that “the charges against trans fat just don’t hold up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent.” Today, Mr. Jacobson is claiming trans fats kill 30,000 people a year. We wonder if he feels guilty.

I wonder indeed.


  1. What do you think of the article’s claim that the studies demonstrating the link between trans-fats and CHD are “inconclusive at best”?
    Hi Dave–
    I think the claim is probably accurate.  No one has conclusively proven that trans fats cause heart disease–it just appears that way.  There is no doubt that trans fats cause an increase in inflammation, and we know inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, so there is some risk there, in my opinion.  But I don’t think the definitive study has been done showing the direct effect, despite Walter Willett’s blather about how getting rid of trans fats will reduce heart attacks by 25%.  I think that is an absurd thing to say.

  2. That’s about what I figured. Has there been a conclusive link established between trans-fat consumption and any specific disease? I wonder how many lives would be saved if they banned sugar instead. Diabetes seems to be rapidly climbing the charts.
    But I don’t think bans really solve anything, since all it takes is enough PR combined with the right mix of political bozos to get the ban flipped. Why not instead require that restaurants publish nutrition information alongside menu items? Give people information to make choices, don’t make choices for them.
    Politicians, of course, require pithy soundbites. They don’t want voters making informed judgements, lest they realize that most politicians lack the judgement to make decisions for themselves (see the neverending rash of scandals), much less for the rest of us. “25% reduction in heart attacks” works well in this context: obfuscate the facts with a fear-inducing soundbite.
    Scientists are just people in the end, and just as with the population at large, there exists a subset which are primarily politicians, operating in the same manner to obscure information in order to advance some agenda. In most fields of science, this is just annoying, e.g., it’s not a matter of life or death whose experiment gets launched by NASA.
    But nutrition science is different, because it gets folded in to public policy that affects the health of the population at large. And which group of scientists will have the best luck influencing lawmakers? The politicians, of course. Hence, Walter Willett’s nonsense becomes law, while the population remains essentially ignorant of the issues that have the greatest impact on their health.
    That’s what really excites me about Gary Taubes’ upcoming book: it will provide people with information to make their own choices, rather than relying on the filtered nonsense we get from the media and government. It’s the politicians’ greatest fear, and no doubt why those like Katan and Scott Grundy have such obviously emotional reactions whenever somebody tries to disseminate some real information.
    Or maybe we just need our own politician 🙂
    On a related note: my six-year-old son brought home some glossy and colorful material on the “food pyramid”. It was, of course, dominated by carbohydrates, and the region for “oils” (I guess “fat” is now a four-letter word, so to speak) was so small they couldn’t even fit the word “oils” inside of it; and of course the only acceptable oils were vegetable oils.
    I had a little talk with him about ignoring all of that nonsense, but it occurred to me that it would be nice to have some comparable material espousing the “right” ideas for nutrition. I’m thinking a couple of pages, lots of pictures and colors, suitable for school children. Does such a thing even exist, and if so, where can I find it?
    Go Broncos!
    Hi Dave–
    Let’s hope our schemes to improve the dissemination of nutritional information are more successful than the Broncos were this weekend.
    You are right–it is all political.  MD and I used to give talks to the beef cattle people, all of whom, as you might imagine, were thrilled to hear what we had to say.  They contributed at that time (I don’t know what it is now) a dollar per head of cattle they sold into a advertising and marketing fund the operated by the national cattlemen’s association (the exact name of which I can’t now remember of the top of my head).  This money, which was substantial, was to be used to get people to eat more beef, which, would be good for the cattlemen.
    Problem was (and probably still is) that the pinheads who ran the marketing program were trying to market beef as a component of the low-fat diet.  In my opinion–and in the opinion of the cattelemen themselves–they should have been refuting the idea that the low-fat diet is the best and that saturated fat is bad.  But they didn’t.  They bought into the idea that the low-fat diet was the ideal and tried to promote beef as a part of it.
    The sad part is that–as I mentioned above–the rank and file wanted one thing, i.e. beef marketed properly, while the leaders wanted to go with the current nutritional nonsense.  Much like politics.  We all have to work to make a living providing the goods and services that make all of our lives better, and we put politicians in place to deal with the politics.  And just like the leaders of the beef industry, the screw it up, but they are entrenched and difficult to get rid of.  And, sadly, if they are gotten rid of, more often than not they are replaced by someone as bad, if not worse.

  3. Jacobson should be named Jack**fson.
    I battled his sorry ass during my years at D’Lites in Atlanta.
    He is a terminal nerd with a dangerously biased agenda and a staff of doe-eyed acolytes who are religious in their pursuit of the target “offenders” hand-picked by Jack**fson.
    A hateful, worthless dweeb.
    Not that I have any strong feelings about him one way or the other.
    Hey DB–
    Don’t hold back.

  4. More than 10 years ago, when I didn’t know any better, I subscribed to Jacobson’s newsletter for a while. Then I moved, changed my mind about the conventional nutrition advice, but somehow the CPSI newletter offers found me again. I have repeatedly stamped and returned the response envelope, with a note declining their “invitation”, insisting that they remove my name from their list because I am no longer fooled by their junk “science” and the vegetarian agenda they peddle (& of course, accusing them of further ruining the health of Americans, so they know how I *really* feel).
    But no one at CSPI or their subscription fulfillment center must be literate, because still the “invitations” continue …
    And thanks for running a photo of Jacobson. He looks rather sickly, doncha think?
    Hi Anna–
    You’re right. He does has that pasty, don’t-get-enough-good-quality-protein look about him.

  5. I really can’t see the banning of artificial trans fats as being a bad thing even if we have to fight a different battle to save saturated fats. The key word here is artificial. I don’t think the food crusaders will have any luck banning steaks or eggs or coconut oil although people like Michael Jacobson will no doubt try. After all, they’ve been trying (to do that) for the last thirty years at least.
    The main thing is that, hopefully the public will start to become aware that new and artifical products in our diet need to be viewed with a healthy skepticism, e.g. corn syrup, polyunsaturated oils (which in most cases did not even exist before the 1920’s), etc.
    Hi Mark–
    If I thought the trans fat ban wouldn’t set a precedent I would be all for it.  I suspect that you’re right–I doubt that Jacobson and the other food Nazis could bring about a ban on saturated fats, but they will try.
    Maybe just a ban on artificial foods.

  6. I’m setting a great deal of hope on Taubes’ book in that the information contained therein will make it impossible for the lowfat diet Nazis to attempt to ban saturated fats. I’m looking forward to the amusement created when people like Jacobson try to refute Taubes’ info and will finally have to really read the studies they have claimed support their views–and find out the studies really don’t.
    Hi LC–
    Don’t hold your breath.  Right now there are countless studies in the medical literature showing the superiority of the low-carb diet for treating obesity, diabetes and a host of other problems.  You don’t see Jacobson and the other food Nazis changing their tunes.
    I think that the value of the Taubes’ book will be in the impact that it makes on the general public, most of whom now know only what they get from the media, which is driven by Jacobson and others of his ilk.
    The Ornishes, Jacobsons, and James O. Hills of the world will never change.  Like an anthropologist, I’ve lived among them, and I know how they think.  Not only do they simply think the way they do out of a perverted ideology, their income is based on their continuing to believe the way they do.

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