Health

Strokes, Heart Attacks Drop Where Trans Fats in Restaurants are Banned

A Yale study found a 6.2 percent decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes among New York residents in districts where trans fats were banned from restaurants.

Apr. 14, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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A ban on trans fats from New York eater­ies has improved public health, accord­ing to a new study pub­lished by JAMA Cardiology. The study con­cluded that the removal of trans fats from restau­rant foods had sub­stan­tially reduced the number of heart attacks and strokes suf­fered by res­i­dents in areas where the trans fat ban was in place.

Our study high­lights the power of public policy to impact the car­dio­vas­cu­lar health of a pop­u­la­tion.- Eric Brandt, Yale School of Medicine

Results from the study showed a 6.2‑percent decline in hos­pi­tal admis­sions for heart attacks and strokes in dis­tricts where trans fats were for­bid­den. This equated to 43 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 100,000 people. The researchers found that the decline in hos­pi­tal admis­sions became sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant three years on from the imple­men­ta­tion of the ban.

The research team led by Eric Brandt, a clin­i­cal fellow in car­dio­vas­cu­lar med­i­cine at Yale School of Medicine com­pared the asso­ci­a­tion between trans-fatty acid restric­tions in food to the number of hos­pi­tal admis­sions for heart attacks and strokes using data from New York State’s Department of Public Health between 2002 and 2013.

Brandt told Yale News, “It is a pretty sub­stan­tial decline.” He added, “Our study high­lights the power of public policy to impact the car­dio­vas­cu­lar health of a pop­u­la­tion. Trans fats are detri­men­tal to car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and min­i­miz­ing or elim­i­nat­ing them from the diet can sub­stan­tially reduce rates of heart attack and stroke.”


The 2007 ban on trans fats from New York’s eating estab­lish­ments extended to restau­rants, bak­eries and street ven­dors in the city and 11 coun­ties. The ban fol­lowed a 2006 ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which demanded that food com­pa­nies declare the trans fat con­tent of their prod­ucts on nutri­tional fact labels, a move which led to many food man­u­fac­tur­ers and fast-food chains elim­i­nat­ing trans fats from their prod­ucts and using health­ier oils.

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Consumption of trans fats is linked to obe­sity, clogged arter­ies, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Trans fats raise levels of levels of low-den­sity lipopro­tein (LDL), “bad” cho­les­terol and reduce levels of high-den­sity lipopro­tein (HDL), “good” cho­les­terol.

Small amounts of trans fats are found in some meat and dairy prod­ucts, but the major­ity are cre­ated through a man­u­fac­tur­ing process called hydro­gena­tion, which trans­forms liquid oils into solid fats. Many processed foods includ­ing mar­garine, chips, fried foods and baked goods con­tain trans fats.

Trans fats were orig­i­nally added to food prod­ucts to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Trans fats were cheaper to pro­duce than sat­u­rated animal fats, and at one time were believed to be a health­ier option.

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The find­ings of Brandt’s study sug­gest that the FDA’s ban of trans fats in all foods, which comes into effect in 2018, will lead to wide­spread health ben­e­fits.

“A nation­wide trans fat ban is a win for the mil­lions of people at risk for car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease,” Brandt told Yale News.

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The FDA esti­mated that a nation­wide ban on trans fats could pre­vent around 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart attacks annu­ally.