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.
“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.
“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.”
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.