Health Buzz: Denmark Imposes 'Fat Tax'

What kind of fats you should be eating? These 10 things could be sabotaging your weight loss.

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Denmark Levies Tax on Foods High in Saturated Fat

Denmark has imposed a "fat tax" designed to limit the population's intake of fatty foods. As of Saturday, shoppers must pay extra based on the amount of saturated fat in products like potato chips, milk, butter, sweet rolls, pizza, oil, and meat. The tax will tack on about $0.15 to the price of a burger and raise the price of a small package of butter by about $0.40, the Associated Press reports. Denmark is the second country to do something like this. In September, Hungary introduced a "Hamburger Law" that increased taxes on soft drinks, pastries, salty snacks, and food flavorings. Saturated fat has been linked to an array of health problems, including higher levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Researchers at Denmark's Institute of Food and Resource Economics blame a diet high in saturated fat for 4 percent of the country's premature deaths.

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  • The Skinny on Fats: What Research Says About What You Should Be Eating

    There are plenty of confusing topics in nutrition, but fats may take the cake. Are saturated fats like butter and animal fat terribly harmful? Should you worry about whether you're eating too much of one kind of polyunsaturated fat and not enough of another? What about olive oil? And shouldn't we be eating as little fat as possible, since so many of us are, well, fat? The distinctions are "enormously confusing unless you're a lipid biologist," says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University.

    First, toss out the notion that the lower the fat content in your diet, the better. A certain amount of fat is essential to your body's functioning, U.S. News reported in 2010. And as you've probably heard, all fats are not alike in their effects on blood cholesterol levels, which can affect risk of heart problems. Saturated fat, for example, generally increases levels of LDL cholesterol. But while this information was known when the surgeon general issued the first report on nutrition and health in 1988 and the National Academy of Sciences issued its own report in 1989, public health authorities felt that a message to reduce total fat would be best understood by the public. The thought was, says Nestle (who was managing editor of the 1988 report), that since saturated fats from meat and dairy products were the main sources of fat in the American diet, lowering total fat would automatically reduce consumption of saturated fat. That's certainly true, in theory. [Read more: The Skinny on Fats: What Research Says About What You Should Be Eating.]

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    • 10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

      So you've got your plot to drop the extra pounds. It certainly seems sensible: You're going to eat right, eat less, and exercise. After weeks of declining dessert and diligently hitting the treadmill, you step on the scale and...only 2 pounds gone? You conclude that something or someone must be sabotaging you.

      You might be right. While experts say weight loss can always be reduced to the simple "calories in, calories out" mantra—meaning if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight—a host of oft-hidden saboteurs may be meddling with the balance. Here's a smattering of them:

      1. Treating healthy foods as low-calorie foods. "A lot of times they're not consistent," says Scott Kahan, codirector of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C. So while whole grains, avocados, and nuts might be kind to your heart or cholesterol levels, dieters who binge on such foods can, before they know it, add hundreds of calories to the day's total. Enjoy calorie-rich healthy foods, dietitians urge, but ration them out: a quarter of an avocado on a salad or a small handful of almonds for a snack.

      2. Shunning shuteye. Some research has linked shorter sleep duration to a higher body mass index (a measure of body fat) and increased hunger and appetite. Additionally, if you're tired, you might be prone to grab a sugar-laden treat for a midday boost, skip the gym, and have takeout for dinner to avoid cooking. It's a vicious cycle. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. [Read more: 10 Things That Can Sabotage Your Weight Loss.]