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You might not live longer, but it will seem like it

December 14, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

First it was public smoking that was banned, now it's public consumption of something called "trans fat." It happened first in New York City, but it's bound to spread. The government has determined that trans fats are a health risk, and has given the deep six to deep fried.

According to the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who banned smoking in bars and restaurants during his first term, the changes could save lives.

"We're not trying to take away anybody's ability to go out and have the kind of food that they want in the quantities that they want, but we are trying to make that food safer," he said.

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What, does this mean you have to walk outside the office if you want to have a donut?

Can you imagine worse news for Hagerstown? We deep fry our salt and pepper shakers, for crying out loud. I don't want City Hall to get any ideas.

I know the backs of EMS workers are at risk here, but you have to have some satisfaction if the 800-pound guy you just lugged out of his third-floor apartment died happy.

Not that I don't want the government to be responsible for setting my alarm clock, but isn't this more intrusion than is necessary? I'm to the point that I want to take up smoking, just because the state tells me not to. And I hardly want to do 10 years on a muffin rap.

The deal with trans fats, as I understand it, is that they serve no nutritional value, but they make the food go down smooth at the same time they are, technically, killing you. I guess, but I'd hate to be arrested for driving under the influence of donuts.

Officer: How much trans fat have you consumed this evening?

Driver: Oh, only just a couple of wing dings.

Officer: Please step out of the car and place your belly behind your head.

According to newspaper accounts, "The (New York) city's health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, said the changes will help fight the twin epidemics of obesity and heart disease. Trans fats, listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, are believed to be harmful because they wreak havoc with cholesterol levels."

So? Our cholesterol levels have been wreaked upon since the invention of corn chips. And we get the beat-down on grease? We like our heart disease, thank you very much. Frankly, I'm an organic kind of guy, but I still get a little startled at the thought of chasing down a free-range chicken with a hatchet. I'd just prefer fast-food restaurants did the dirty work, so I don't have to think about it.

And I get nervous about federal "don't do this" messages. Like what are the signs going to say, "Thank you for not trans-fatting"?

I don't know if I want to live in a world where french toast is illegal. If we have to live in a nation where the only legal food is broccoli, count me out.

Basically, what the government is doing here is trying to force us to live longer. But what if we don't want to? What if we want to check out at age 76 with a mouth full of home fries?

That's kind of selective, in my view. Maybe some people's lives aren't worth the extension. It's like, "Don't eat trans fats - unless you're Hitler, in which case, knock yourself out."

But if you're going to narrow the food chain down to what is and isn't legal, I hope ice cream makes the cut. Life without sugar isn't worth living.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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