This week, like most, has brought a familiar hodgepodge of good and not-so-good news about the American diet.
First, the good: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that trans fats—which typically come from hydrogenated vegetable oils—are on their way out of the American diet. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among white adults, trans-fatty acid levels decreased 58 percent from 2000 to 2009. The researchers, who are now studying trans-fat levels in the nonwhite adult population, call this statistic "astounding."
The drop may have a lot to do with the Food and Drug Administration's 2006 decision to require food manufacturers to include trans fats in their nutritional labeling, something that in turn inspired health departments across the country to pressure restaurants to stop cooking with them. Although the FDA regulations haven't eliminated the use of partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods—as the Huffington Post notes, products like Jimmy Dean Croissant Sandwiches and Pop Secret Kettle Corn still pack 'em—it has drastically decreased their prevalence.
Now the not-so-good news, for bread lovers anyway. The busy bees at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released yet another study this week, this one bearing the somewhat surprising findings that the number one source of salt in the average American diet is not chips, pretzels, or shady lunch meat, but bread and rolls. The reason: On its own, bread isn't particularly salty, but we eat a ton of it. The report clarifies that most of the bread we consume is made outside the home, as are the majority of the other foods (pizza, cold cuts, sandwiches like cheeseburgers) that make up the CDC's list of the top 10 sources of sodium in the American diet.
That isn't particularly surprising, and neither is the CDC's recommendation that manufacturers reduce the sodium levels in their damn products (or, failing that, that we start paying more attention to nutritional labeling). It's hard to say which seems more unlikely, but hey, at least we've got our trans-fat laurels to rest on.