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The Trans-Fat Ban Is Working in New York. Can we legislate and tax our way to good health?

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The July 21 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine has reported on New York City’s efforts to phase out artificial trans fats from restaurant food. According to N.Y.C. health officials, the effort has been successful. The use of trans fats for frying, baking and the like has declined from 50 percent to 2 percent of N.Y.C. restaurants. The action has been met with derisive “nanny state criticism” and became the fodder of talk radio station programs nationwide.

However, a Yale experiment on children aged 7-11 found “a direct causal link between food advertising and greater snack consumption.” Americans have been culturally conditioned to eat fast, fat and processed.
While ads to market unhealthy food to children in Great Britain and other European countries have been the focus of efforts to limit them to after 9 p.m, there is widespread acknowledgement that the $18 billion spent annually in the United States to market unhealthy food to children sells a lot of sugary snacks. The science is clear that more TV equates to more snack consumption, and more food ads translate to greater consumption of unhealthy snacks. Why don’t we “be the parents” instead of letting ads influence our children to consume fast and processed foods to their detriment? Advertising limits to small children are critical as is public education that fruits and vegetables do help children grow up to be big and strong. Mom was right.
Taxing and legislating adults to limit unhealthy food consumption misses the point that empowering consumers to learn how foods can optimize our health and reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes is good medicine.

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