When I learned that the Metro Council was considering an ordinance to ban trans fats from Louisville’s restaurants, I was torn. According to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, trans fats are extremely unhealthy. They raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, lower your “good” (HDL) cholesterol, raise triglyceride levels, cause inflammation and peek in at you while you’re taking a shower. Trans fats are linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and not being able to get a date, no matter how good a dancer you are.
However, the equally prestigious Mayonnaise Clinic is quick to point out that trans fats play a role in extreme deliciousness, which triggers the brain’s pleasure network, making you less likely to act upon other dangerous impulses, such as fitting comfortably into an airplane seat.
One does not need to Google “Nimoy+girth” to see that obesity is a problem in America. One can simply look around. Or down. That giant expanse blocking your view of the floor? That’s the problem Metro is concerned about. Sixty million Americans have a body mass index of “jolly” or higher. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death. And Kentucky ranks No. 5 in obesity rates nationwide. Louisvillians are 30 percent more likely than the national average to discover an uneaten Nutter Butter lurking inside the blubbery folds of their back fat.
But is a new law the way to address the problem? Wouldn’t that just block our God-given right to commit suicide via frickled pickles, while also creating a dangerous black market in Crisco? Maybe, but it turns out that even Crisco is now available in a trans-fat-free version. Even KFC — which many people consider food — has removed trans fats from its menu.
Evil scientists created trans fats — also known as partially hydrogenated oil — by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This industrial process makes oil solid at room temperature, gives it a longer shelf life and makes plastic taste really yummy.
But at what cost to society? Millions are dying needlessly, and millions more are having to avert their eyes from looking at still millions of others. And economists place the cost of obesity-related health care between $40 and $70 billion annually, which is money America could be using to start more wars.
Just as we’re learning with stem cells, Plan B and Internet porn, the laws of yesteryear don’t necessarily apply today. Is trans fat a “food” or an industrial product justifiably subject to restriction? Now that dietary diseases outrank infectious diseases, why not regulate against them the same way? New York’s ban is estimated to have saved more lives than seatbelts.
And yet, my gut says that if the makers of Crisco can concoct a trans-fat-free version of their scrumptious sludge, trans fat is already doomed, ban or no ban. Maybe trans fat is one of those heinous plagues, like text messaging or religion, that we’ll eventually outgrow before it kills us all. Then again, that’s my gut talking. For all I know, it could be loaded with trans fat, which might be doing all its thinking for it.
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