A sign on a display at Starbucks reads 'No artificial trans fats' A sign on a display at Starbucks reads 'No artificial trans fats' A sign on a display at Starbucks reads “No artificial trans fats.” Universities and governments around the world are moving to ban or limit the use of trans fats in processed food. (Photo: David Goehring / Flickr)

Banning trans fats on campus

Universities move to help students achieve a healthier lifestyle.

For many college students, newfound freedom from home means the formation of unhealthy eating habits. But universities are stepping up, with major schools banning the partially hydrogenated oils found in processed foods from student cafeterias.

The University of Haifa in Mount Carmel, Israel, announced that trans fats are no longer allowed in the restaurants on campus. Other institutions to ban trans fats include the University of Michigan, which banned them from its university hospitals, and Columbia University in New York City, the first city in the world where a citywide trans fat ban is in place.

Trans fats arise during the processing of partially hydrogenated oils. These fats are dangerous because they lower good cholesterol levels (HDL) and raise bad cholesterol (LDL), according to the American Heart Association. Trans fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Most recently, a study at the University of California San Diego suggested that trans fats may affect memory as well.

Legislation to ban the use of trans fats is in place in five European countries – Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Iceland and Switzerland – as well as parts of the United States, including California. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working toward requiring the food industry to phase out its use of trans fats nationwide after a November 2013 determination that they can no longer be “generally recognized as safe.”

While trans fats should be limited in a healthy diet, it’s important to remember that not all fats are bad for you, said Tina Bost, dietician for the Mayo Clinic (learn more in the below video).

She recommends “being more mindful of what you’re eating, keeping in mind the Mediterranean-style diet, more plant-based foods, getting the fruits and vegetables in, focusing on those heart-healthy desirable fats.” The Mediterranean diet encourages consumption of unsaturated fats, found in foods like olive oil, avocado and nuts.

“Making changes toward a healthier lifestyle is so important to decrease the risk of stroke and other coronary artery diseases,” said Bost.

For the University of Haifa, the trans fat ban is part of a broader commitment to its designation as a “green” campus.

“We work on many levels to make our campus more environmentally friendly,” University of Haifa spokesman Ilan Yavelberg told From The Grapevine. “This includes taking on ourselves the issue of improving the health of our staff and students, in this instance, through healthy nutrition.”

The 13 food outlets on campus are already obliged to conform to this new decision, and regular inspections will help ensure compliance, Yavelberg said.

“We place great importance on our work for the health and welfare of our staff and students,” said Yavelberg. “We are setting an example for the right way to use the knowledge of experts in the field of public health in order to improve our own health and that of those around us.”


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