Time to answer some readers’ questions.
Q. Nine months ago I moved from a country home to the center of University Circle, so I could enjoy walking to cultural events, restaurants, etc., and love it. But I find myself not sleeping as well. I’m very hard of hearing and take my hearing aids off at night, but I feel my sleep is not as good as it used to be. Is it just the noise? – Betty
A. It could be air pollution or other things, like stress or noise. Indoor air could be more polluted with some chemicals than outdoor air, but particulates and nitrogen dioxide are particularly hazardous and more common in traffic polluted air.
We know that small particulates cause inflammation. We’ve just learned these small particles and nitrogen dioxide air pollutants appear to be the cause of disturbed sleep. Data indicate those in the highest polluted streets sleep with 6 percent less efficiency.
Q. When New York banned trans fats in restaurants in 2013, did it do any good? And if it didn’t, why are we continuing to force this additional burden on food companies? – David
A. It did some good, so we hope this regulation stays in place. And since food companies apparently only care if you’ll buy something – and not about your health – you have to be active to protect you. As the ban rolled out in N.Y. over a three-year-period, counties that went with the new rule had a 6.2 percent decrease in hospital admissions for myocardial infarction and stroke compared to counties that hadn’t yet adopted the restriction. That would mean about a $150 billion savings in hospital costs, not to mention increased vigor and ability to still work.
Trans fats got into the food supply to increase shelf life. As more food was mass produced during the 1950s, scientists found a way to extend the shelf life of packaged edibles by infusing hydrogen into vegetable oils, transforming them into a more solid state and extending the shelf life of prepared foods and baked goods.
Since 2013 when the FDA decided trans-fats were not generally regarded as safe, doctors and health food advocates have been getting out the word that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are unhealthy. Americans consume 80 percent fewer trans fats than they did a decade ago.
The Harvard’s T.C. Chan School of Public Health estimates eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply entirely could prevent up to a quarter of a million heart attacks and related deaths annually in the U.S.
So get trans fats off your plate now. How? Read labels. Don’t eat or buy foods with “partially hydrogenated” anything on the ingredients list. And understand that the labeling law allows products to claim “0 grams of trans fats” if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Eating several portions of foods containing some trans fat may boost your total intake to a level high enough to affect your brain. Your best bet: Stay clear of prepared and packaged baked goods and foods.
Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.