A study published in JAMA Cardiology suggests that people living in areas that restrict trans fats in foods may have fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks and strokes compared to residents in areas without restrictions.
Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are commonly found in fried foods, chips, crackers, and baked goods. Eating even minimal amounts is linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Some communities—most notably New York City—have eliminated the use of trans fats in restaurants and eateries in recent years.
To study the impact of restricting trans fats, researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine and Yale School of Medicine compared outcomes for people living in New York counties with and without the restrictions. Using data from the state department of health and census estimates between 2002 and 2013, the researchers focused on hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke.
The researchers found that three or more years after the restrictions were implemented, people living in areas with the bans had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke when compared to similar urban areas where no limits existed. The decline for the combined conditions was 6.2%.
“The results are impressive, given that the study focused on trans fatty acid bans in restaurants, as opposed to complete bans that included food bought in stores,” said senior author Tamar S. Polonsky, a general cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “If we enact a more complete restriction on trans fatty acids, it could mean even more widespread benefits for people long term.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a nationwide ban on partially hydrogenated oil in foods, which effectively will eliminate dietary trans fat when it goes into effect in 2018.