How Trans Fat Bans Could Work to Reduce Health Problems

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Cheeseburger and french friesAccording to a new study by the University of Chicago and Yale Medicine, people living in countries that restrict trans-fatty acids had fewer hospitalizations for heart attack or stroke compared to people in counties without those restrictions.

The study, which used data from the state department of health between 2002 and 2013, focused on residents of New York in counties with and without restaurant trans fat bans. Within three years, fewer hospitalizations for the conditions were reported in places that enacted the bans.

What is a Trans Fat?

Trans-fatty acids are commonly found in fried foods and baked goods. Potato chips, fried chicken and cake are all typically high in trans fats. Trans fats raise your “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL) as well as lower your “good” cholesterol levels (HDL), increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A simple way to avoid trans-fatty acids is to cook nutritious foods at home.

Foods that use partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient or in their preparation typically have an elevated amount of trans-fatty acids.

Partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils are the primary dietary source for trans fats in processed foods. These oils are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them easier to store and transport.

How Could a Trans Fat Ban Help?

The study researchers found that the combined heart attack and stroke rate of residents of areas with a ban on trans-fatty acids in restaurant declined 6.2 percent. Lead author Eric Brandt, MD, of the Yale School of Medicine said the study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population. That means happier visits to your primary care physician (PCP).

Because of the prevalence of deep-fried food in restaurants, some cities and counties have opted to ban the use of partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils in restaurants. This is seen by PCP doctors as lowering the population’s overall consumption of trans fats, though they still may be present in other foods.