Sunday, July 27, 2008

Arnie bans incorrect fat

California, a national trendsetter in all matters edible, became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill Friday to phase out their use. Under the new law, trans fats, long linked to health problems [Show us just ONE person who has been demonstrably harmed by trans-fats. It's all supposition], must be excised from restaurant products beginning in 2010, and from all retail baked goods by 2011. Packaged foods will be exempt.

New York City adopted a similar ban in 2006 - it became fully effective on July 1 - and Philadelphia, Stamford, Conn., and Montgomery County, Md., have done so as well. But having the requirement imposed on the most populous state's 88,000 restaurants, as well as its bakeries and other food purveyors, is a major gain for the movement against trans fats. That movement has been led by scientists, doctors and consumer advocates who trace the largely synthetic fat to a variety of ailments, principally heart disease. "I think the potential here is real for a far greater understanding of the harms of trans fats, and to encourage more states to do the same," Dr. Clyde Yancy, incoming president of the American Heart Association, said of the California law's enactment.

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperature, a process called partial hydrogenation. The process results in an inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf life and appearance of packaged foods and that, many fast-food restaurants say, helps make cooked food crisp and flavorful.

But trans fats have also been found in scientific studies to lower high-density lipoproteins, the "good" cholesterol, while increasing low-density lipoproteins, the "bad" cholesterol, high levels of which contribute to the onset of heart disease, the leading cause of death in California and the nation. Dr. Yancy said a 2 percent increase in trans-fat intake could result over time in a 25 percent increase in the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. "These are data we are just now beginning to understand," [An interesting admission!] he said. "It is pretty clear now that it was a mistake for us to embrace these fats."

Under the new law, restaurants, bakeries, delicatessens, cafeterias and other businesses classified as "food facilities" will, in the preparation of any foods, have to discontinue use of oils, margarine and shortening containing trans fats. Those purveyors will have to keep the labels on their cooking products so that the products can be inspected for trans fat, a process that will become part of the duties of local health inspectors. Violators will face fines beginning at $25 and increasing to as much as $1,000 for subsequent violations.

Trans fats are also linked to obesity, and the bill's author, Tony Mendoza, a Democratic assemblyman and former fourth-grade teacher from Southern California, said he had been inspired by the number of obese children he saw in school. "They are heavy," Mr. Mendoza said. "They eat out a lot, and you realize there are trans fats out there. You don't want kids to start off on the wrong foot."

Opposition to the move came largely from the California Restaurant Association, which argued that singling out trans fats as a singularly harmful food product was arbitrary and that a mandate would prove expensive. Further, the association said, a ban for health reasons is the purview of the federal government, not the states. "We don't doubt the health findings surrounding trans fats," said Lara Dunbar, the association's senior vice president for government affairs. "Our opposition was philosophical. Banning one product isn't necessarily the right solution." In addition, Ms. Dunbar said, many of the state's restaurants have already eliminated trans fats. "We don't think you need a mandate," she said. "Restaurants responded to a consumer demand."

Among national chains, Wendy's, KFC, Taco Bell, the Cheesecake Factory and McDonald's have all begun to move away from trans fats because of consumer concerns....

To many health policy makers, though, trans fats have become almost the enemy that cigarettes became long ago. New York's anti-trans-fat movement, led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is still in its early days. The first phase, which began last year, made a target of frying oils and spreads. This month, the program was extended to baked goods. Nearly all the 25,000 restaurants inspected have proved compliant, according to the city's health department. New York has also offered a Trans Fat Help Center where bakers were schooled in the use of alternative fats.


Leech revival

These critters are the bane of bushwalkers in Australia but medical uses of them are increasing

When Mehdi Jaffari was told his left carotid artery was so severely blocked he faced the risk of an imminent stroke, he turned the clock back to medieval times. The 52-year-old counsellor, from Chatswood, bought more than 35 leeches from a Victorian farmer and applied them to his body daily. Within five days, a CT angiogram showed the artery had cleared, stunning staff at Royal North Shore Hospital and his family.

Leech therapy, first documented in Greece more than 4000 years ago, is not new in Sydney. More than 50 Richardsonianus australis leeches are kept in a tank at Liverpool Hospital for use on patients who have had skin grafts or severed digits because their saliva contains hirudin, a chemical that acts as a powerful anticoagulant and vasodilator. But using them on patients with severe cardiovascular disease has not yet become established practice in Australia. "It should be, because the results have been amazing," Mr Jaffari's wife, Tracy, said yesterday. "Mehdi was able to achieve more in five days than anyone of us thought possible."

Mr Jaffari's journey began when he had four heart attacks one morning last September and was rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital for an angiogram and stenting. Four months later he was back in surgery when the stent blocked and he was told he had advanced cardiovascular damage, with his left carotid artery almost 80 per cent blocked. On the advice of his sister, a leech therapist in Iran, Mr Jaffari placed seven of them on his back, legs and neck five times a day. After five days, a scan showed the artery had almost cleared.

"I'm highly surprised that he improved so much in such a short space of time," Mr Jaffari's interventional cardiologist, Peter Hansen, said. "But I do have a degree of scepticism. Perhaps the first scan overestimated the narrowing of the artery and the second scan underestimated it. Or perhaps it was a miracle and leeches do work. I am willing to keep an open mind on this because the results were impressive."

Dr Hansen said while hirudin was known to dissolve blood clots, it was not known to dissolve plaque. "Nothing in Western medicine can make [plaque] disappear in a week, or indeed at all. Statins may reduce it but they rarely make it go away, so it's very interesting."

In 2001 an international trial involving more than 17,000 heart attack patients found that bivalirudin, a genetically engineered form of hirudin, was 10 times more effective than heparin, the most commonly used blood-thinning agent.

But anyone wanting to buy leeches privately could find it difficult, the co-ordinator of the leech program at Liverpool Hospital, Katie Laing, said yesterday. Her supply is sourced from a farm at Echuca and several times during the year she is called upon to supply hospitals throughout Australia. "For now, people may have to wait until the treatment becomes a little more orthodox," she said


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