Health Buzz: Fast Food Chains Should Offer Free Statins, Researchers Say

(US News & World Report) — Would you like a statin with your fries? Fast-food joints should distribute for free the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, taken by 24 million Americans to prevent heart disease and strokes, to offset the effects of a fatty meal, a new study suggests. The researchers, at Imperial College London, concluded that the cardiovascular toll of a daily meal consisting of a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a small milkshake would be neutralized by a statin pill served as a side order. The findings of the clinical trial, which involved 43,000 participants, will be published Sunday in the American Journal of Cardiology. “In terms of your likelihood of having a heart attack, taking a statin can reduce your risk to more or less the same degree as a fast-food meal increases it,” lead researcher Darrel Francis told reporters. And providing the pills would cost less than 7 cents per customer, about the same as a packet of ketchup. A fast-food statin may not be enough, however. The British Heart Foundation, stressing that the drugs are not a “magic bullet,” recommends exercise and a healthy diet as the best bet for staving off heart problems, Reuters reports.

How to Decode Food Labels and Shop Like a Pro

Food labels can be confusing, even for seasoned shoppers. Does “trans fat-free” mean guilt-free? Is “organic” more healthful? Not always, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, nutrition expert and author of the upcoming book Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. She’s created a guide that breaks down label lingo and shows how to detect misleading enticements, U.S. News’s Hanna Dubansky writes. Among the terms the book cautions to be wary of:

Serving Size. Isn’t a small package of cookies or a can of soup a single serving? No, says Taub-Dix—one serving is whatever the numbers on the label say it is. “You have to multiply the fat and calories by the number of servings listed on the label.” That can of soup showing 800 milligrams of sodium? Check the label. With the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration, the manufacturer defines the amount as two servings. Mistaking it for a single serving will have you downing 1,600 milligrams of sodium, higher than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 1,500 milligrams for an entire day. She also wishes serving sizes reflected the manner in which people eat. Take cereal, for example. “The serving size is one ounce, which is good information,” says Taub-Dix. “But what does one ounce mean?” A one-ounce serving of Grape-Nuts is 3 tablespoons; an ounce of Cheerios fills one cup. Unless you’re measuring out cereal on a scale, she says, it’s hard to visualize what an ounce of cereal looks like.


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