Monday, April 17, 2006

AHA Must Stop Endorsing Foods with Trans-Fats!

The American Heart Association (AHA) solicits donations on their website with a powerful few sentences: Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of American men and women. Your secure online gift will support scientific research, education and programs in your community. Consider it an investment in your own future, as well as the health and well-being of your family and friends.

On their website, their mission is stated on their About Us page as "to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. That single purpose drives all we do. The need for our work is beyond question."

Within the organization's Ethics Policy is the statement that "We pursue our mission with honor, fairness and respect for the individual, ever mindful that there is no 'right way' to do the 'wrong thing.' We uphold the values of the AHA in every action and decision. We are committed to act in good faith, to comply with the rule of law and AHA policies and regulations."

How then does the organization reconcile its inclusion of foods rich with health damaging trans-fats in their book, The No-Fad Diet? How exactly do they reconcile the fact that their list of foods bearing the Heart Check Logo include foods using partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient?

Just this week, yet another medical journal published the deadly effect of industrial trans-fats on health - as reported on MedPage Today, Trans Fats Judged Major Villain in Cardiovascular Disease.

The article above states, quite clearly, "unhealthy trans fats are found in deep-fried foods, bakery products, packaged snack food, margarines, and crackers, and to try to avoid these foods."

Yet, the AHA No-Fad Diet includes these foods in the sample menus and promotes the book to a public as a diet to improve health and reduce health risks. The AHA list of "heart-healthy" foods on their website also includes these foods.

Just how deadly are industrial trans-fats? Findings in the above review are as follows:
  • Lipid Levels: Trans fatty acids have markedly adverse effects on serum lipids. Their consumption raises levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, reduces high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and increases the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, a powerful predictor of coronary heart disease risk. Trans fats also increase triglyceride levels, compared with the intake of other fats.
  • Potential Molecular Mechanisms: Fatty acids are powerful modulators of cell function, altering membrane fluidity and responses of membrane receptors. They appear to affect lipid metabolism, although these mechanisms are not well established. Cardiovascular Disease: On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase coronary heart disease risk more than any other micronutrient, conferring a substantially increased risk at levels as low as 1% to 3% of total energy intake. In a meta-analysis of four prospective cohort studies of nearly 140,000 participants, a 2% increase in energy intake from trans fats was linked to a 23% increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease.
  • Sudden Death: A large community-based, case-control study found that levels of trans fats in erythrocyte membranes were associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.

Remember - the AHA claims they are working to "to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke," while asking for donations to "support scientific research, education and programs in your community." They even state one should "Consider it an investment in your own future, as well as the health and well-being of your family and friends."

Why is the AHA ignoring the evidence in their publication of the No-Fad Diet that industrial trans-fatty acids are contributing to cardiovascular disease?

Why does the AHA promote on their homepage, the link A free, heart-healthy grocery list is just a click away where we find a laundry list of foods containing partially hydrogenated oils?

Within that list we begin to find many foods that use partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients:

  • Kellogg's All-Bran Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bars
  • Kellogg's All-Bran Oatmeal Raisin Bars
  • Breton Reduced Fat & Sodium Wheat Crackers
  • Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Soft 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Healthy Choice Cheese French Bread Pizza

These are just a sampling from a list online that includes hundreds of products that manufacturers pay the AHA to effectively endorse as healthy with their logo on the box!

The AHA maintains the website for consumers that states on the homepage "The American Heart Association established its Food Certification Program in 1995 to provide consumers an easy, reliable way to identify heart-healthy foods."

I find it deeply troubling that the foods being promoted as "heart-healthy" are made with heart damaging trans-fats, don't you?

I find it hypocritical that the AHA says they are working to "reduce disability and death from cardiovascular disease and stroke" while at the same time promoting products rich with trans-fats to consumers, don't you?

I think it's downright dishonest for the AHA to promote itself as "trustworthy" and an organization from which one "can count on the information because it comes from America's most reliable source of heart-health information" when the very foods being endorsed contain trans-fats that are known to damage the cardiovascular system!

It's high time the American consumer calls the AHA to task for their contradiction and conflict-of-interest.

As an organization that promotes itself as "trustworthy" it must start to be trustworthy - talk is cheap!

The American Heart Association can redeem itself and earn back the trust it loses each day it promotes foods containing heart-damaging trans-fats if:

  • Immediately insist on the removal of its logo from any product containing industrial trans-fats
  • Immediately recall the AHA No-Fad Diet book from shelves and re-release only after revisions adequately address the need to eliminate industrial trans-fats from the diet
  • Immediately begin a public education campaign to clearly communicate to consumers the heart damaging effects of industrial trans-fats in foods

If you believe the AHA is not doing its part to educate the public about the heart damaging effect of industrial trans-fats and is indeed contributing to their continued use in our food supply and you believe it is time the AHA take responsibility for its endorsement of heart-damaging foods, you can do something about it - stop donating money!

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