When I read the story in late October about KFC’s announcement that it will eliminate the use of trans fat from its menu the middle of next year, I thought about John Yasenka.

Well, I didn’t think about his name, because I had forgotten it, if in fact I ever knew it. But I did think about Yasenka’s unusual journey.

For those who may have forgotten, Yasenka is the man who in early September passed through Ashland driving a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo powered by used vegetable oil acquired from fast-food restaurants.

My question as I read the story about KFC joining other restaurants in eliminating trans fat from their menu items was simply this: Would Yasenka and others driving vehicles powered by cooking oil get as good of mileage from oil without trans fat as they do with oil with trans fat?

It seems to me like eliminating trans fat from the cooking oil that restaurants use could be as dramatic a change as when lead was eliminated from gasoline. Think about the name trans fat. Could that be the same trans as in transportation? Inquiring minds want to know.

I confess that I had never heard of “trans fat” before KFC pledged to stop using it. But then I stopped reading about what foods are good for you and what ones are bad for you many years ago, when I concluded that the only way I could really protect my health is to cease eating altogether. I mean things are getting pretty bad when they take spinach off the market because of the risk of E.coli. If you can’t trust Popeye, who can you trust?

Before spinach disappeared from the supermarket shelves, I thought E. coli only came from hamburger that wasn’t properly cooked, and since I only eat meat that has been burned to the crisp, I thought I was safe.

I did a Google search on “trans fat” and learned more about it than I ever wanted to know.

Here is what the American Heart Association has to say about trans fat:

“Trans fat (also called trans fatty acids) is formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen is added to make the oils more solid. Hydrogenated vegetable fats are used by food processors because they allow longer shelf-life and give food desirable taste, shape and texture.”

Even though I didn’t know what it was, I must be doing a fairly good job of avoiding trans fat. Because I am diabetic, I have blood work every three months. Among the things measured is my cholesterol level. During my last two visits, my doctor has informed me that my “good cholesterol” level is increasing while my “bad cholesterol” level is decreasing. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I learned from my Google search than “trans fat” is a major source of bad cholesterol.

Trans fat is so bad that banning it has become the latest cause by those who crusade against our greatest enemy: Ourselves. Now that they have been successful in banning smoking in public in cities, counties and states across the country, they are taking aim at trans fat.

Of course, banning tans fat does not quite raise passions like banning smoking in public. While there is ample evidence that people can be harmed by the second-smoke from nearby smokers, I can’t see how sitting next to someone eating a hamburger and fries loaded with trans fat can harm my health — unless, of course, I grab a fry when that person is not looking. Thus, the only people harmed by trans fat are those who eat food with it.

I guess you could say I’m not a heavy trans fat user, but that’s more by accident than by intentionally trying to avoid it.

I grew up in a era when eggs were good for you and fried chicken was a staple of Sunday dinner. And I consumed a whole lot of second-hand smoke from my father. Sometimes I think it is only by the grace of God that I survived such an “unhealthy” environment. And to think, I had perfect attendance for 10 of my 12 years of school. If Dad had not smoked around me and I had not eaten all those eggs, I may have never missed a day of school.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.


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