The news is abuzz with Denmark’s latest health initiative: a new tax on foods that have a saturated fat content of 2.3% or more. This “fat tax” is 16 Danish kroner per kilogram of saturated fat, or in American terms, $1.29 per pound. In effect, this will make a package of butter $0.40 more expensive and will raise the price of a burger by about $0.15.
This tax isn’t designed to promote weight loss – the obesity rate in Denmark is only 13.4%, lower the European average of 15.5% (and far below the USA’s 30.6%!). Instead, Denmark’s government hopes that by discouraging the consumption of saturated fats, they can reduce the incidence of heart disease and cancer and increase the average Danish lifespan.
Despite the stir it’s causing in the US news, this fat tax is not raising eyebrows in Denmark, where trans fats are banned and Danes already pay higher “sin taxes” for sugar, sodas, and candy. Other countries are taking note, though, and Finland and Romania may soon follow Denmark’s example. Yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he’s also considering implementing a “fat tax” in the UK to combat Britain’s growing obesity problem.
Though public efforts to encourage healthier eating are admirable, we must be careful when pointing the finger at fats as public-health-enemy-number-one. Denmark’s new initiative targets saturated fats, the kind mainly found in animal products. These foods can be fine in small quantities, but overall it’s best to limit the amount of saturated fat you eat – it raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol and contributes to heart disease.
On the other hand, there are all sorts of really healthy fats that actually lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL or “good” cholesterol, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and assist in brain development and neurological functions. Fat molecules are packed with energy so we should eat them in moderation, but it’s a shame for people to avoid avocados, walnuts, and almonds because they believe a low-fat diet is the key to good health. As always, education here is key!
Check out a few of our related articles on how fat can play a healthy role in your life:
Do you think that fat taxes will push people to make healthier lifestyle choices?