New York City's resolve to eliminate trans fats from food sold at public eateries has effectively decreased stroke and heart attack rates by 6.2 percent, according to a new study.
In July 2007, 11 New York counties adopted the resolution to ban trans fats from restaurants, bakeries, cafeterias, caterers, senior-meal programs, soup kitchens, and street booths.
Researchers at Yale University took this opportunity to observe and record the public health benefits that stemmed from this "natural experiment."
A 'Win' For People Who Risk Heart Disease
The researchers found that three years after the trans fat ban was enacted, these counties reported an exponential drop in hospital admissions for cardiovascular events.
Compared with the other 26 state counties that didn't adhere to the same restrictions, the residents in these counties now have 43 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 100,000 adults (aged 25 and older).
The study, featured April 12 in the journal JAMA Cardiology, suggests heart disease hospitalizations could be even more reduced once the U.S. Food And Drug Administration's nationwide restriction on trans fats goes into effect next year.
"A nationwide trans fat ban is a win for the millions of people at risk for cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Eric Brandt, study lead author.
What Are Trans Fats?
Trans fats are considered by many doctors the most unhealthy type of fats available in our diet. Also called trans-fatty acids, these fats are formed when liquid oil goes through a process known as hydrogenation to make the product solid, similar to butter, and expand its shelf life.
Because these fats have increased preservation durability, they are typically found in processed food, from baked and fried goods to yeast breads, chips, crackers, cookies, microwave popcorn, and margarine.
Eating trans fats boosts LDL or "bad" cholesterol, simultaneously reducing HDL or "good" cholesterol, and leads to clogged arteries and inflamed blood vessels. A 2015 study revealed trans fats are even more unhealthy than saturated fats.
Even small amounts of trans-fatty acids increase the chances of stroke, heart disease, and sudden heart death. Researchers note that as little as 2 grams (0.07 ounces) of trans fats are enough to raise cardiovascular risk.
Although several New York counties have committed to get rid of trans fats in public culinary establishments, partially hydrogenated oils still find their way into people's diets, mainly because they are still available in grocery stores.
Starting next year, manufacturers and food preparers will no longer be allowed to use these oils in any of their products, as per the FDA's pending national trans fat restriction. Instead, food companies are to replace hydrogenated fats with vegetable oils, like olive oil, canola oil, and safflower oil.