The gov­ern­ment war on choice

The FDA con­tin­ues to change the recipe for ev­ery­one’s din­ner

The Washington Times Daily - - Editorial -

The gov­ern­ment is a ter­ri­ble and in­de­ci­sive cook. One day the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion tells the pub­lic it must eat more of some­thing, and the next it says no, stay away from that. It’s easy to con­clude that the FDA merely wants to rid ev­ery­one’s diet of ev­ery­thing that tastes good, with harsh ad­mo­ni­tions to “eat your spinach.”

The agency’s his­tory of nutritional waf­fling is why its lat­est cru­sade, against trans fats in par­tially hy­dro­genated oils, is wor­thy of deep skep­ti­cism.

There’s ac­tu­ally no need for the gov­ern­ment to ban trans fats be­cause the use of trans fats is steadily de­creas­ing in the Amer­i­can diet. Rather than al­low the mar­ket to man­age the threat, if threat there re­ally is, the FDA in­sists on rid­ding ar­ti­fi­cial trans fats from Amer­ica’s kitchens by ad­min­is­tra­tive dic­tate, all in the name of sav­ing the lives the gov­ern­ment tries hard to make mis­er­able.

The sci­ence be­hind FDA’s salu­tary claim is du­bi­ous, as the agency sways with what­ever nutritional wind is blow­ing. In 1959, the FDA wanted no part of the fats wars. The agency de­clared that “the ad­vis­abil­ity of mak­ing ex­ten­sive changes in the na­ture of di­etary fat in­take had not been demon­strated, and that any la­bel­ing claim re­lated to heart disease would be re­garded as il­le­gal.” A few years later, when Nabisco tried to in­form con­sumers of the fat con­tent of a box of Shred­ded Wheat, the FDA con­fis­cated the boxes.

In the 1980s, busy­bod­ies at the Center for Sci­ence in the Pub­lic In­ter­est pushed the idea that Amer­ica must re­place tra­di­tional lard, but­ter, co­conut and palm oil with sat­u­rated fats, mar­garine and short­en­ing, all of which con­tained par­tially hy­dro­genated oils. The nutri­tion­ists scorned those sub­stances, even though, as sci­ence au­thor Gary Taubes ob­serves, there’s no ev­i­dence of a causal link to the no­tion that more than the rec­om­mended con­sump­tion of sat­u­rated fats trig­gers death in any­one “not al­ready at high risk of heart disease.”

Some 30 years on, the sci­en­tific “con­sen­sus” has flipped, and sat­u­rated fats aren’t so ter­ri­ble any more. We’re told that trans fats are the enemy of the ar­ter­ies. Al­though the con­sump­tion of trans fats in the United States has been de­clin­ing, the in­ci­dence of heart disease has not.

Amer­i­cans on av­er­age con­sume about 5.8 grams of trans fats each day, and the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment sees two grams as a safe level. Forc­ing the num­ber to zero likely has no ad­di­tional ben­e­fit be­yond bring­ing con­sump­tion to the “safe” level of two grams.

Bad sci­ence makes bad rules — and worse health out­comes. This was true in the 1980s, and it’s true to­day. Amer­i­cans still can’t abide gov­ern­ment nan­nies with long-han­dled spoons ea­ger to make the medicine go down. Heart disease is com­plex, af­fected by diet, life­style and an­ces­tors. Grown-ups and their doc­tors, not bu­reau­crats who can’t re­sist the urge to prac­tice medicine, can arm them­selves with in­for­ma­tion and make health de­ci­sions for them­selves.

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