Cupcake Turns 25: Dietitian Believes Trans Fat Has Kept It Together All These Years

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Chicago-based dietitian Bonnie Minsky owns a 25-year-old cupcake still in pristine form. Minsky has used it over the years to show her clients the dangers of trans fat. With the world turning its attention to trans fats, she feels it is the perfect time to use the ancient cupcake as a symbol of why trans fats should be removed from the food supply.

I use it as a visual for my clients

At the beginning of Licensed Dietitian Bonnie Minsky's career, she wanted to show school kids the difference between real and fake food. It was 1981. She purchased a Hostess Cupcake and let it sit for a few months. As she suspected, it kept its form and did not break down, unlike her apple, which started becoming spoiled in a few days. Did it ever cross her mind that the cupcake would still be in "pristine" form 25 years later? Never.

Why has she kept it so long?

"I use it as a visual for my clients," Minsky says. "When I speak at corporations, people cannot believe it when I tell them how old it is. It sends a strong message about the danger of trans fat."

Trans fat, which is chemically altered by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, has become a lightning rod for the food industry worldwide. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are most often found in fried foods, cookies, crackers, cupcakes, doughnuts, or anything that benefits from a longer shelf life.

"The funny thing is, except for artificial flavor and partially hydrogenated oil, the ingredients in the cupcake are all real," adds Minsky. "It shows you the incredible shelf life that trans fats provide. What it does to our body is another story."

Denmark was the first country to ban trans fat nearly two years ago. Many other countries are planning to follow suit. In the United States, packaged products can be labeled trans fat-free if they contain less than 0.5%. However, restaurants are not required to list the amount of trans fat on their menus. Because of this, New York and Chicago have proposed to ban trans fats in restaurants.

"I'm excited," Minsky quipped. "Nothing had changed with regard to removing trans fats until recently. They have no place in our food supply. And there is no safe level."

This month, published research from Harvard's prestigious Nurse's Health Study showed that women who consume 6% of their calories from trans fat gain up to twelve pounds more over an eight-year period than those who consume none. The National Academy of Sciences have also said that trans fat increases levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and lowers levels of HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol). Earlier this year, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that claimed removing trans fats from the food supply could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks and cardiac deaths each year in the U.S.

How is Minsky going to celebrate the cupcake's birthday?

"I certainly know what I won't do…eat it."

Bonnie Minsky, LDN, MPH, MA, CNS, is President and Wellness Director of Nutritional Concepts, Inc., established in 1985. Bonnie counsels individuals, corporations, schools, and has performed hundreds of speaking engagements. Minsky has authored two books, Our Children's Health and Nutrition in a Nutshell, and has written seventeen Action Plans. More information can be found at Nutritional Concepts, Inc..

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