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Ban on Trans Fats in NYC Restaurants Reduces Cardiovascular Risk

A recently published study found that overall trans fat levels had fallen by around 57 percent and people who frequently dined out benefited from a greater decrease of around 62 percent.

Mar. 4, 2019
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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A new study pub­lished in the American Journal of Public Health con­firmed that levels of trans fatty acids (TFA) in New Yorker’s blood have dropped sig­nif­i­cantly since the ban on restau­rants using trans fats took effect in 2007.

Sonia Angell, the co-author of the study and Deputy Commissioner at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told Olive Oil Times the study proves that poli­cies to make restau­rants health­ier work.

Reducing New Yorkers’ expo­sure to dan­ger­ous trans fat in restau­rants, and thereby reduc­ing their risk for a heart attack, was made pos­si­ble by this policy.- Sonia Angell, Deputy Commissioner at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

“This tells us that poli­cies that aim to make restau­rant foods health­ier can work,” she said. “That’s impor­tant because in New York City, people like to eat out. In fact, 20 per­cent of New York City adults said they ate restau­rant food at least four times or more a week.”

Angell believes the ban has been suc­cess­ful.

“Trans fat in the diet increases the risk for heart dis­ease. Just two per­cent of total calo­ries (about 40 cal) from trans-fat has been shown to increase the inci­dence of coro­nary heart dis­ease by 23 per­cent,” she said. “Reducing New Yorkers’ expo­sure to dan­ger­ous trans fat in restau­rants, and thereby reduc­ing their risk for a heart attack, was made pos­si­ble by this policy.”

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The results revealed that whilst over­all blood trans fat levels had fallen by around 57 per­cent, people who fre­quently dined out ben­e­fited from an even greater decrease of around 62 per­cent; indi­cat­ing that that the ban on TFA in restau­rant foods has been effec­tive in reduc­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk.

The research team were not sur­prised by the results.

“We had imple­mented the ban with the inten­tion reduc­ing people’s expo­sure to trans fat – our study con­firmed this hap­pened,” Angell said.

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“Overall, there was a 57 per­cent decline in trans fat in the blood in New York City res­i­dents,” she added. “That’s sim­i­lar to what has been seen nation­ally during that gen­eral time frame (54 per­cent).”

“We didn’t know what the expected dif­fer­ence would be based upon fre­quency of eating out,” Angell con­tin­ued. “That’s what we aimed to add to the public’s under­stand­ing with our study. People who ate out rarely had a 51 per­cent reduc­tion in trans fat in their blood, while people who ate out four times a week or more had a 61 per­cent reduc­tion in the trans fat in their blood.”

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The study was under­taken as part of a health and nutri­tion survey, which exam­ined par­tic­i­pants’ dining habits in order to gauge the impact of the TFA ban. Two hun­dred and twelve blood sam­ples taken in 2004 were com­pared against 247 drawn in 2013 and 2014.

The sam­ples taken in 2013 and 2014 showed a drop in serum TFAs from 49.2 micro­moles per liter to 21.3, which meant that New Yorkers’ trans fat levels had plunged over­all by around 57 per­cent. In people who dined out four times a week or more, the decrease in serum TFAs was sig­nif­i­cantly greater at around 62 per­cent.

Angell also hailed the FDA’s 2018 ban on trans fats, which was rolled-out across all U.S. restau­rants and gro­cery stores fol­low­ing a three year phase out period.

“We’re for­tu­nate because as of June 2018, the FDA has man­dated the removal of par­tially hydro­genated oils, the major source of trans fat, from the food supply at large,” she said. “That means that no matter where you live or eat, trans fat should no longer put your heart at risk.”

An ear­lier study under­taken by Yale con­cluded that strokes and heart attacks dropped when trans fats were banned in New York restau­rants. The researchers reported a 6.2 per­cent decline in hos­pi­tal admis­sions for heart attacks and strokes. The study also showed that the decline in hos­pi­tal admis­sions became more sig­nif­i­cant three years on from the ban.

In 2007 when arti­fi­cial trans fats were already being flagged as detri­men­tal to heath, a study con­firmed that con­sum­ing high levels was linked to a greater risk to coro­nary heart dis­ease.

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