Trans Fats Restrictions May Be Working, Yale Study Finds

APRIL 12, 2017
Lisa Neuman
Yale University researchers have found that people who live in areas that restrict trans fatty acids are hospitalized less for heart attacks and strokes than people who live in areas that do not restrict them.
 
These acids, commonly known as trans fats, have been linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease in recent years. Some major metropolitan areas, such as New York City, have already instituted policies aimed at reducing the use of these fats in restaurants and eateries ahead of a nationwide FDA ban on using partially hydrogenated oil in all foods that goes into effect next year. That ban will virtually eliminate trans fats from all dietary use. Currently, these fats are found in chips and crackers, baked goods, margarine, and fried foods.
 
Eating food containing trans fats has been associated with reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, increased low-density cholesterol, as well as unfavorable changes in triglycerides and markers of systemic inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha.
 
In the Yale study, led by Eric Brandt, MD, hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke were studied using data from the New York State Department of Health between 2002 and 2013 to compare outcomes between people living in counties with and without trans fats restrictions.
 
In the areas that had implemented trans fats restrictions, there was a combined decline for heart attack and stroke hospitalizations of 6.2% after 3 years, or 43 events averted per 100,000. There was a significant decline in heart attacks (–7.8%; 95% confidence interval [CI], –12.7% to –2.8%; P = .002) and a nonsignificant decline in stroke (–3.6%; 95% CI, –7.6% to 0.4%; P = .08). It is important to note that the study only tracked counties that restricted trans fats in restaurants and other eateries; consumers could still be exposed to these fats in grocery stores where the restrictions were not in effect.
 
“It is a pretty substantial decline,” said Dr. Brandt in a news release. “Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population. Trans fats are deleterious for cardiovascular health, and minimizing or eliminating them from the diet can substantially reduce rates of heart attack and stroke.”
 
Dr. Brandt went on to explain that the upcoming FDA ban next year will make it even easier for the general public to maintain vigilance over their diet, especially if they are at risk for cardiovascular disease. He said that while some companies have already reduced the amount of trans fat in their food, the current FDA labeling guidelines allow up to 0.49 grams per serving to be labeled as 0 grams, misleading consumers into thinking that a food labeled trans fat-free really may not be, or may have hidden trans fats, which are usually labeled as partially hydrogenated oils.
 
“With the upcoming FDA regulation, people need not be so vigilant. A nationwide trans fat ban is a win for the millions of people at risk for cardiovascular disease,” he said.
 
The study, “Hospital Admissions for Myocardial Infarction and Stroke Before and After the Trans-Fatty Acid Restrictions in New York,” was published in JAMA Cardiology.
 
 
 


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