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Jewish World Review May 3, 2000 / 28 Nissan, 5760

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports


Pass the fat, please -- CAN WE PLEASE bring back the fat now?

I'm not suggesting that we start downing butter by fistfuls. But I am sick to death of being on an airplane and being given only low-fat dressing for the salad, along with a spit of low-fat "butter" for my roll before I dig into my low-fat cookie for dessert. All of it tastes likes cardboard.

Meanwhile, the guy next to me is so obese he's literally spilling over onto my seat, but he's got this self-satisfied look because he's eaten only low-fat items--including all the extra low-fat cookies he wheedled out of the flight attendant.

I say bring back the good stuff--some of it anyway--and tell that obese guy he'd be much better off and probably more satisfied with a couple of real, delicious "fatty" cookies than ten fake ones. Because it's the latter that adds the calories and hence the body fat that really can kill him in a dozen different ways, from cancer to heart disease.

Eating fatty foods in and of themselves won't even give him or anybody else colon cancer. That gospel of modern medicine--that a low-fat high fiber diet will keep the colon cancer bogey man away--has just been dumped.

For decades now Americans have been choking down bran muffins because this was supposed to be a way to prevent America's second leading cause of cancer (behind lung cancer). This "truth" was up there with things like "the world is round" for almost 30 years .

Then two studies from the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the University of Arizona debunked the theory and left researchers stunned.

Of course even before this science was in, it was at least obvious that the low-fat trend was doing nothing for the typical American's "bottom line." As we've become addicted to low-fat foods in this country, we Americans have gained on average more than eight pounds per person in the last ten years. American adults are fatter than ever, and getting fatter faster, and so are our kids. And obesity really is a killer.

Nor has pushing low-fat foods willy-nilly into the food chain helped Americans in general when it comes to heart disease, still our number one killer. In fact, after decades of the low-fat trend, the incidence of heart disease has not declined (though fatalities from it have).

Now look, I'm not suggesting that diets rich in saturated fats are good for the heart. They aren't. But while carefully tailored, individualized low-fat diets can be part of a life-saving plan for some folks, there's no evidence that frying the French fries at McDonald's in vegetable oil--instead of good old real fat--is doing anything for the general population. But most fast-food restaurants that I know of do exactly that. Meanwhile, to choke down those tasteless fries you have to roll them in about three cups of salt. And boy, that's a healthy habit. Nor can you wash them down with a real milkshake. Those are all made of "low-fat" yogurt. Yuck. But I bet there's a lot of folks getting an extra quarter-pounder because, after all, "the fries were done in vegetable oil."

It's everywhere in our lives. The grocery stores are lined with low fat-coffee creamers, hot dogs, cheeses, ice cream, cookies, cakes, chips, pop-tarts--you name it. True, I don't have to buy the stuff--and I don't. Why in the world would I want to eat a low-fat piece of cake which has almost as many calories as the far more satisfying real thing?

But this nonsense has so invaded our culture that I'm the one who is considered "indulgent" because I like one dish of real Haagen-Dazs--instead of three dishes of the fake stuff. My friends give me a hard time because they can't find low-fat foods at my house. (For that matter I don't buy sugar substitute either. Some friends just bring their own.) And yes I wince when someone asked to bring dessert to a dinner party shows up with something "light and low-fat"--like sorbet.

Now for the record, I eat my vegetables and I like oatmeal. I'm 119 pounds soaking wet, and I have healthy cholesterol levels. I'm all for varied, healthy eating habits. I'm just also desperately trying to find a fast-food restaurant that serves good old-fashioned crispy, deep-fat fried, delicious fries.

A place that has never heard of Canola Oil.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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