Just how bad are trans-fats?

Libertarians have, predictably, been reacting to NYC's trans-fat ban with horror. While I share their feelings about regulation, and I agree that in general public health scares are bogus, I think it is inaccurate to (like Steven Milloy) act as though trans fats are some kind of made up scare that isn't really all that bad. I've always suspected trans fats to be the biggest US public health debacle of the 20th century, and a look at the data supports that. Trans fat is much, much worse for you than other kinds of fat. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that switching entirely from trans to unsaturated fats would reduce deaths from heart disease by 30,000 - 100,000 per year. In 2003, there were 2.45M deaths, so this represents 1%-4% of all deaths in the country - just due to one poisonous substance getting past the regulators and into widespread use. That's as many die in car crashes every year.

I guess some might see this as an argument for more regulation. I see it more as pointing out how regulators make mistakes. But either way, it's wrong to let a distaste for regulation or for made-up health scares blind you to the occasional situations where there really are public health dangers. There may be individual studies where the statistical significance of trans fats was small, but taken in aggregate, the evidence is overwhelming. That shit is bad for you.

If you have heart disease in your family, I encourage you to eat less trans fats, more fish, and live long enough to get the hell off this rock and upward to freedom.

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