The Really, Really Bad Fat

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Anyone out there think current nutritional labels are too simplistic? No? Well, the Food and Drug Administration would beg to differ. Apparently, our health as a nation could hinge on our collective discernment not just of fat, or even of saturated or monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, but of trans fatty acids. It's these evil little fats, after all, that single-handedly clog our arteries, sending us into the waiting arms of the nation's cardiologists. Never an agency to back down from a food fight, the FDA is urging manufacturers to add a trans fat figure to the already eye-crossing array of data splashed across the packaging of our favorite foods — hoping the additional information will somehow propel us all into a fit of healthy eating, or at least make us finally acknowledge our fat-dependency problem. According to the FDA's recommendations, the new fat would be listed right under the reigning bad guy, saturated fat.

Despite the gravity and the medical evidence backing their latest crusade, the FDA may be facing an uphill battle in the public arena. Like the boy who cried wolf, the agency has squandered its hold on consumers' attention span with countless warnings about good cholesterol, bad cholesterol and various fats and an abundance of ever-changing dietary recommendations. According to TIME medical contributor Dr. Ian Smith, the agency would be well advised to push through the public fatigue. "Consumers may be tired of all these warnings," says Dr. Smith. "But this fat has been linked directly to heart attacks and death." As the FDA continues its fight for new labels, consumers can check trans fat content in food on their own, adds Dr. Smith. Just scan the ingredient label for partially hydrogenated oil — you won't get the amount in each serving, but at least you'll know to curb your consumption.