Nutrition stories made the news last week, although a look behind the headlines is helpful before anyone goes into a chocolate coma. And a second story worth noting is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision that food manufacturers have three years to remove all trans fat from foods. Until that happens, one can take steps for a healthier heart.
A study from the UK declared that higher chocolate consumption is associated with a lower risk of future cardiac events. Compared to those who ate no chocolate, subjects with the highest intake, about 3.3 ounces a day, had the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. The chocolate-eating group ate more calories but were not heavier, and they appeared to be more active.
The authors bring up the confounding issue of reverse causality, that is, people at high risk for heart disease might eat less chocolate. No one is saying, based on this, that eating chocolate will prevent heart disease. But if someone has risk factors for heart disease, then eating a small amount of dark chocolate, about an ounce or less a day, is probably OK.
I am pleased the FDA is banning artificial trans fats since they are a trifecta of badness. They raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and increase inflammation in the body. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the trans fat ban could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year.
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Putting trans fat on the food label was a step forward but the labels are confusing. Manufacturers are not required to list trans fats if they are present in amounts less than .5 grams per serving. You could think you are eating trans fat free but five servings of a food with 0.4 grams of trans fat would put you over the recommended guideline. If you see partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list, then there is trans fat in that food product. Find an alternative. To discover if your favorite crackers or snacks have trans fats, head over to http://www.ewg.org/research/hidden-trans-fats and https://www.pinterest.com/cspinutrition/trans-fat-wall-of-shame/
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.