In 2006, New York City began restricting the amount of trans fats allowed in restaurant food. The regulation has apparently had the desired effect: lower blood levels of trans fatty acids for New Yorkers who dine out.
Trans fatty acids, or TFAs, come mostly from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils like shortening or margarine. They raise blood levels of LDL, the “bad cholesterol,” and lower those of HDL, or “good cholesterol.” Their consumption is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The analysis, in the American Journal of Public Health, used more than 200 randomly selected blood specimens drawn from participants in a larger health study in 2004 and in 2014, before and after the restrictions went into effect.
The Food and Drug Administration now requires trans fat labeling of packaged foods, and many packaged foods are no longer made with trans fats. And blood TFA levels declined by more than 54 percent nationally between 2000 and 2010. But they declined by 61 percent in New Yorkers who dined out four or more times weekly.
“A 2 percent increase in calories from TFAs has been associated with a 23 percent increase in coronary heart disease risk,” the authors write, which could have significant public health implications. Cities in New York State that do not have trans fat restaurant policies, for example, have higher rates of hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke and higher cardiovascular disease mortality, studies have found.
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