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.

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.

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.

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.

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