Banning trans fats is linked to reduced hospital admissions, say researchers

Sally Robertson, BSc

Laws in certain New York counties that place restrictions on adding trans fats to foods have immediately had a positive impact on the public’s heart health, according to research published in JAMA Cardiology.

In a study that compared counties that impose the restrictions to counties that do not, the number of hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke was significantly reduced among people living in areas where trans fats are restricted.

The findings point to the possibility of a widespread cardiovascular health benefit when the FDA’s policies on trans fats are implemented nationwide next year.

“The most important message from these data is that they confirm what we predicted — benefit in the reduction of heart attacks and strokes,” says lead author Eric Brandt from Yale University in Connecticut… “This is a well-planned and well-executed public policy.”

Trans fatty acids are often found in foods such as chips, fried foods and baked goods. Consuming lower amounts of these fats is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death worldwide. Between 2007 and 2011, some counties in New York have introduced restrictions on the use of trans fats in restaurants and other public eateries such as bakeries and soup kitchens. In 2018, the restrictions are set to take effect nationwide.

To study the impact of these restrictions, Brandt and team used data from the state department of health and census estimates between 2002 and 2013, to test the effect of the ban on hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke. They looked at nine counties that had imposed the restrictions and eight that had not.

The researchers found that three years after trans fats were limited in certain counties, there was a 6.2% decline in hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke among people living in those areas, compared with those not living in them.

"It is a pretty substantial decline," says Brandt… "Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population.”

The findings indicate that the FDA’s plans for 2018, which is to restrict the use of trans fats in all foods nationwide, will provide a significant widespread benefit to people’s heart health.

“A nationwide trans-fat ban is a win for the millions of people at risk for cardiovascular disease," Brandt concludes.

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