Trans fat….Table for Two! – by Michael Laskin

It continually amazes me when we fight things that are so obviously good for us.
“No, we are not going to do that! We’re absolutely not! No way! (pause) Okay….. we’ll change, but just this once!”

Here’s a fun-fact: health officials in New York City estimate that the total banning of trans fatty oils in city restaurants will save 500 heart attack deaths there every year. Can you imagine how many lives would be saved if they banned all taxis? The verdict on trans fatty oils is overwhelming. No good comes from them. They should be relegated to the nutritional dustbin of history. While much of the rest of the world simply hasn’t enough food to eat, Americans argue over which fat is best for us. Let’s get some perspective here.

First Chicago, “city of big shoulders” (not to mention big stomachs), proposed the banning of trans fatty oils in restaurants. The verdict is still out on that one; the brat-and-beer crowd is not going down without a fight. After all, what’s more traditional than watching The Bears, while enjoying a trans-fat chaser?

Now New York City, the (self-proclaimed) center of the universe jumped on the bandwagon. Not to be outdone by Chicago, which had proposed this ban only for restaurants above a certain monetary level (i.e. large fast food chains like McDonalds, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, etc.), New York City is proposing this for ALL restaurants. First they cleaned up Times Square, now they’re “roto-rootering” our arteries.

Health-conscious Los Angeles doesn’t appear to have a government-mandated ban yet, but ominous signs are looming there as well. The popular Cheesecake Factory chain of restaurants has announced the elimination of all trans fatty oils. Wow. Their typical 3000-calorie dinner will be just that much better for you! We can all sleep better now. “Could you please pass the butter? (it’s a natural fat, after all).

The serious issue of childhood obesity and its health effects down the road provokes unanimity among scientists and nutritionists. Wouldn’t it seem logical for restaurants to do all they could to provide truly healthy meals for all? But, they fight it. They always fight it – until it stops making sense to fight it. Not one brand yet has really jumped on this bandwagon in a convincing way. I believe that any business that sincerely communicates their interest in the public good (over short-term profits) will make profits beyond their dreams. In our jaded marketplace true altruism can make for very good business.

It’s human nature to have a “knee-jerk” reaction against being told what is good for us and what is not. “Hey, if I want to kill myself by smoking that’s my business!” But there’s a real tangible reason why we don’t spray DDT on our produce anymore:
it’s bad for more people than it’s good for.

When people don’t take personal responsibility for their own health, an opportunity is created. Yes, there can be draconian government regulation with an issue like this (it seems we are moving in that direction), BUT wouldn’t it be better if enlightened brands chose to lead on this in a way that is real, authentic, and convincing? McDonalds was led kicking and screaming toward the inevitability of a more health-conscious menu. Now this dreaded sea-change seems to have had a positive effect on their profits. Hmmm.

“Let’s just keep making more of those SUV’s, that hybrid thing will never catch on.”

–Quote from a GM executive who took early retirement–

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