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Front page in UK, no news in Singapore

January 31, 2007

When Harvard University researchers reported earlier this month that they found trans fats increased the risks of infertility, it made front page news in The Daily Express, “the world’s greatest newspaper” (this is how The Daily Express describes itself).

I learnt this the other evening from chatting on the telephone with Oliver Tickell, who runs the British anti-trans fats campaign, tfX.

Of course, there were also UK newspapers that buried the story in a small column on page 60. But Oliver tells me that the British media has overall been very supportive of the campaign to heighten consumer awareness about the dangers of trans fats.

Well, I cannot really complain that our local media is not supportive. Not when the ST Forum just published another of my letters today, about trans fat labelling in South Korea. But hey, some of you read about that first, right here on this blog.

But did the big story about trans fats and infertility make it to the Singapore MSM (main stream media)?

Admittedly, I don’t read the newspapers everyday so I could have missed the report. As far as I am aware, the news wasn’t reported here – until I mention it today at the bottom of my letter about trans fat labelling in South Korea.

So this piece of important news finally appeared in The Straits Times, summarised into one short sentence buried in a Forum Letter.

Click here to read more about trans fats, infertility and other birth-related problems on my website, www.stop-trans-fat.com.

The next short sentence summarised another recent news item about trans fats, or rather, about ‘No trans fat’. This is the report about interesterified fat, another strange new invention of the food industry, being possibly more harmful than trans fat. Again, some of you might have read about it first on this blog.

Back to infertility…

Harvard researchers reported on January 19 that a mere 2 percent increase in trans fat consumption could increase a woman’s risks of infertility by 70 percent or more!

That’s a very major risk coming from a very small amount of trans fats. To increase your risks of fertility, all you need to do is take 4 grams of trans fats – less than the amount that comes from a piece of fried chicken, cooked in hydrogenated oils, from a fast food restaurant.

Even though our newspapers have dedicated health pages – in fact, an entire health supplement every Wednesday in the case of The Straits Times – for some reason they cannot find the space to convey this major health risk.

Perhaps this is why our health authorities and medical experts, such as the chairman of the Singapore Heart Foundation, consider trans fats to be “a small problem”. They only read the local MSM?

For sure you will not learn about trans fats and infertility – or, for that matter, trans fats and lots of other health issues – on the Health Promotion Board’s website either. As of today, HPB Online still has that same, 700+ word article, All about trans fats which contains just two sentences about the effects of trans fats on the body. I quote:

Trans fat behaves like saturated fat in the body, raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) that increases your risk of coronary heart disease. In addition to raising “bad” cholestrol, trans fat also reduces the blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholestrol), which protects against heart disease.

Is that ALL that the HPB has to say about trans fats. Is that ALL it knows? If it knows more, why isn’t the HPB telling it?

In an email to me some weeks back, a friend wrote: People (like me) know more about transfat from reading the forum page than all the activities of HPB on this subject in the past 10 years!

I must invite him to read this blog too.

And hey! I just realised today is his birthday. Happy Birthday Pat 🙂

8 comments

  1. Your singular effort on health education is far reaching and wonderful for us who scan the MSM but scrutinize the Forum page. Keep it up, we r behind you. HPB should hire you as CEO because you care for public health!


  2. I don’t mind being Health Blog Officer, or HBO 😉

    Perhaps the HPB should pay me for writing this blog, instead of spending taxpayers’ money on whoever it was who could produce only two sentences about what trans fats do to the body!


  3. Thanks for the updates.


  4. I recalled that Mind Your Body did have a rather simple article on trans fat then nothing on it afterwards. It was nothing as informative as your most recent letters and commentary. The silence of the MSM after the recent letters to ST Forum is rather unexpected.

    What credit is due to HPB for updating three lists on trans fat contents of common food items, low trans fat food items and shortenings on 16 Jan after the first flurry of letter writing?

    In my opinion, more credit should go to this blod and stop trans fat website!


  5. Hi Richard, I’m in the US at the moment and it disturbs me that there is stuff going on SG now that apes (failing) things in the US – the US healthcare system, and the failure of the mainstream media to report the toxins and health concerns in pesticides, genetically-modified food, plastics, and household chemicals. The more research I do the more I realize the US MSM does a shoddy job really presenting important information; plus their flawed devotion to “fair and balanced” reporting means they “balance” watered down scientific studies with advertising copy from the advertisers and want to insist both are right. I was in Singapore in October when the SG newspapers were devoting some time to organic food – the benefits of organic were dealt with quite trivially and in a “if you believe this, it’s for you” kind of fashion. I’m tempted to say that if SG news is taking its cue from anyone, it’s the US mainstream media. Europe from what I can tell is giving health and sustainability issues more weight than this!


  6. Thanks for sharing about the US situation. And hey, I noticed you have a white lotus flower. You take lotus flower pictures too?

    Yes, there is much to be said about “balanced” reporting. eg if the press carries a story about some form of non-medical therapy, balanced reporting means the journalist must get a doctor, who might know zero about the subject, to comment.

    Of couse, if there is a report about some medical / scientific breakthrough, even if it is very preliminary and not conclusive, the story in itself is balanced.

    Ever read in the newspapers about Chinese sinsehs being asked for their views on Western, chemical medicine? Why then should medical doctors comment on Chinese medicine and other therapies they know next to nothing about?

    Ah! Must balance leh!

    As for organic foods, the Health Promotion Board used to have an article on its website titled THE ORGANIC FOOD CRAZE!

    That’s how our health authorities view organic foods and the people who take them!

    The article stated that there is “no difference” between organic and non-organic food.

    Well, at least they seem to have removed it.


  7. “Organic food craze”? Hai – really no different from the MSM view in the US!

    I love taking botany photos – lotuses are just my favorite.


  8. What did they remove?



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