It turns out that one small change has meant drastic results for heart health, and it is leading the way for fast food restaurants to change the way they think about their ingredients. When restaurants in New York started taking trans fats off the menu, they noticed that hospitalizations for stroke and heart attack dropped drastically in the city. The move set the precedent for the proposed ban on trans fats in the United States slated to take place in 2018.
In New York counties that restricted trans fats, hospitals noticed a steep decline in admissions for heart attacks. Nutritional epidemiologists believe that instituting a nationwide ban will save lives and reduce the rates of heart disease across the nation. This will produce a ripple effect of lowered need for medical intervention and as a result, longer lifespans for Americans.
The Root of the Problem
Heart disease is one of the most deadly epidemics in the United States. More than 600,000 people die from heart disease each year. Foods high in artificial trans fats increase the risk of death and leads to high levels of bad cholesterol. This cholesterol clogs the arteries and puts a strain on the heart, leading to eventual heart attack and stroke. Trans fats are found in fried foods, like those most found in fast food restaurants. They can also be found in cakes, cookies, butter and crackers.
The ban on trans fats started in 2007 when New York City restricted the amount of the bad fats that were used in restaurants and in school cafeterias. Around the same time, the city started requiring chain restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus, leading to increased nutritional awareness. The results were drastic. Strains were lifted from hospital emergency rooms and the incidences of diabetes related complications and heart attacks dropped.
Eric Brandt is a Yale University internist who studied the effects of the trans fat ban based on the counties who had implemented it. In the analysis, Brandt studied the hospital admission rates for the counties who had implemented the ban and noticed that they were lower than those who had not. Improvements in the way doctors treated heart disease had a large part in the change, but Brandt and his team theorized that the trans fat ban also had a large part in the findings.
What the researchers found was not insignificant. For every 100,000 people in the counties that banned trans fats, 43 fewer people suffered heart attacks and strokes. This drop controlled even for normal trends in population.
The future for restricting trans fats is clear. Starting in 2018, counties all across America will start to purge their menus of the artery clogging trans fats that have created a health epidemic in the country.
In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration determined that partially hydrogenated oils were no longer considered safe. Manufacturers have until 2018 to purge them from their foods. The FDA hopes that this will mean a brighter and healthier future for everyone and put a stumbling block in the epidemic of heart disease in America.
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