What Else is Next?

Steven Milloy, author of the indispensable Junkscience.com, points out that Harvard's Ascherio and WIllet, authors of the study on which NYC's transfat ban was based, have also identified dangers of a similar magnitude and with similar statistical significance (the latter admittedly low, but it was low for their transfat conclusions as well) of:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Red meat
  • Dairy products
  • Soft drinks

If NYC is consistent in its logic, then it must ban these other substances.  These substances showed the same level (or greater) of health risks at the same level of scientific proof by the same study authors. 

Now that the Board has deemed their dubious trans fats research
suitable for dictating public policy, New Yorkers ought to hope that
Ascherio and Willett don't press the Board to implement some of their
other published research that is similar in "quality" to their trans
fats work.


New Yorkers could, for example, see restaurants
banned from serving potatoes, peas, peanuts, beans, lentils, orange
juice and grapefruit juice. Ascherio-Willett reported an increase in
the risk of heart disease among consumers of these foods in the Annals of Internal Medicine
(June 2001). Although none of those slight correlations were
statistically meaningful -- and, in all probability, were simply
meaningless chance occurrences -- a similar shortcoming didn't seem to
matter to the Board when it came to their trans fats research.


  1. Rob:

    Shouldn't we ban peanut oil because a small percentage of the population is allergic? Those people shouldn't have to know if what they are eating contains something harmful to them. It's the responsibility of others to watch out for me and you, isn't it? ... j/k

  2. Patri Friedman:

    Look, I don't think it's right to ban things, but it isn't right to say that trans fats aren't that bad, either. Skeptics like Steven Milloy get so used to seeing fake scares that they automatically doubt real ones. I consider the widespread use of trans fats to be one of the great health debacles of the 20th century. That shit is *bad* for you. Every gram/day of unsaturated fat in your diet decreases your risk of heart disease by 5%-15%. Every gram of satured fat increases it by about 7%. Every gram of trans fat increased it by 96%. And it's strongly linked to diabetes and other problems.

    Again, government bans are a bad solution. But I believe trans fats have had a serious negative impact on the health of the country. I bet if you can find stats for the use of trans fats by state and do a regression, you will see that they are a significant contributor to health problems.