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Healthier French Fries?

Healthier French Fries?While McDonald's made news by cutting trans fats in its fries by 50 percent, a Tufts nutrition expert said the fast food chain isn't exactly selling health food.

Boston [09.04.02] Twelve years after McDonald's started using vegetable oil to lower the cholesterol profile of its French fries, the fast food chain announced it has changed oils again - this time to cut trans fat levels in its fries by 50 percent. While the new recipe has been portrayed by McDonald's as healthier, an expert from Tufts says consumers shouldn't lose track of the total amount of calories and fat that remain in the fries.

"The change will be phased in at all of McDonald's 13,000 U.S. restaurants over a five month period beginning next month," reported New York's Newsday. "The company termed its decision 'a major step' towards its goal of eliminating trans fatty acid from its cooking oil."

But reducing trans fat, says Tufts' Alice Lichtenstein, doesn't necessarily make the fries healthier.

"The bottom line is that it's good that they're making these changes," Lichtenstein - a professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts - told Newsday. "But we have to keep it in perspective."

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the new oil will only reduce saturated and trans fat - polyunsaturated fat will increase by 167 percent and the fries will continue to have the same amount of calories (610) per large serving.

"It's a better fat use, but the total calories are the same," Lichtenstein, who helped author a National Academy of Sciences report on the health risks associated with trans fat, told The New York Times. "And since much of the public is overweight, they should not get the message that because these are better fries, it's good to eat them with abandon."

But that may be the marketing message McDonald's hopes will stick with consumers.

"The move comes as fast food restaurants are under growing criticism for offering a largely high-fat, high-calorie diet, and as the food industry tries to capitalize on foods perceived as more healthful," reported the Washington Post.

Perception, Lichtenstein told Newsday, doesn't always coincide with reality.

"This shouldn't give people license to eat fries if they haven't been before, or to eat more fries because they think they're better for them," the Tufts expert told the newspaper.

Photos courtesy McDonald's

 

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