Monday, October 03, 2005

Poll: Canadians More Aware Of Trans Fat, Changing Habits

The Canadian Press is reporting on a new poll released today that finds the people of Canada have become more aware of the dangers of trans fats in the foods they eat and a large majority are choosing to eliminate them from their diet altogether.

The Leger Marketing group, a member of the Gallup International Association, conducted the poll of 1,500 Canadians from September 6-11 to gauge their knowledge and habits about trans fats.

Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said they are very serious about watching out for trans fats in the foods they purchase and 53 percent have shown a willingness to give up their favorite foods made with trans fats.

Trans fats are being blamed as the culprit in many cardiovascular ailments, including raising bad cholesterol, lowering good cholesterol, and clogging up your arteries. Also known as trans fatty acids, this is the kind of fat that is created when liquid oils turn into a solid. Some examples of foods that contain trans fats include shortening, margarine, crackers, cookies, sugary snack foods, baked goods, processed foods, and foods fried in partially hydrogenated oils.

The hydrogenation process that is done to vegetable oil is what creates trans fats. It is used to help extend the shelf life of products and keep them tasting as good as possible for when the consumer purchases them for consumption. The Food & Drug Administration in the United States has warned the public about these dangerous fats and has mandated products that contain trans fats be labeled as such beginning January 1, 2006, which has many food companies complaining that they will not be able to comply by that date.

In the Canadian poll, eight out of 10 respondents knew about trans fats already with women (59 percent) more concerned about them than the men (43 percent).

Interestingly, wealth and social status may play a role in the attitude Canadians take towards trans fats.

Of the people who wanted to change their buying habits regarding trans fats, 71 percent were professionals, 72 percent had a college degree, and 70 percent earn more than $80,000 per year in total household income.

Conversely, only 55 percent of respondents who had a high school education, 52 percent of those who earn less than $20,000 annually, and 42 percent of manual workers stated that they would be changing their habits.

This seems to run parallel with the notion that wealth and health are interconnected.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

The Canadian government has taken progressive action towards educating the public about the risks of consuming trans fats. Like Denmark, they have declared war against trans fats in an effort to help their citizenry deal with obesity.

While I applaud those efforts and hope to see a similar sense of urgency about trans fats in America, I am concerned this effort will turn into a condemnation of all fats. This would be a travesty because not all fats are created the same.

Fat is your major fuel source when you are livin' la vida low-carb and even helps your body absord certain vitamins. Fat is a healthy part of your food intake and provides you with great-tasting foods that make you feel full longer.

While the Atkins diet and other low-carb programs have long been blasted by health "experts" and the media for containing too much fat to be considered healthy, the fact of the matter is these trans fats should be a much greater concern to them. Foods like packaged cookies, snack crackers, baked sweets, and processed foods are all avoided on a low-carb lifestyle, but are a staple for most kids in the United States.

Let's stop blaming all fat for causing Americans to become overweight or obese and let's take a look at the trans fat and the sugar that food manufacturers are putting in their products to make them desirable for people of all ages. This debate over the role of fat in obesity is not going away, but there needs to be better education about the difference between the fats your body needs and the trans fat your body does not need. The line of demarcation has not been made abundantly clear yet.


Blogger calgal said...

Along with the advertising of trans fat free here in Canada, and the education about trans fats, we have seen an explosion in information about omega three rich products. It would be good to see a survey that reflects that bit of knowledge.

I haven't really seen an increase in "fats are bad" reporting, but I have seen an increase in reporting on the benefits of whole grains and increased protein.

The more interesting thing has been that Canadian refusal to allow advertising/labelling for food with lower carb counts. The position of the government has been that there is no nutritional benefit to lower carb eating, so unlike low fat (for example) nothing resembling a health claim can be made for lower carb products.

Our new labelling act becomes effective in the next couple of months. Our local low carb store has to change its name to be in compliance with the new requirements.

10/03/2005 10:26 AM  

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