Trans Fat Ban Leads to Lower Hospitalization for Heart Attack, Stroke

Widespread ban on trans fat may improve overall public health and lower healthcare spending.

Stricter regulations on trans fats may lead to better cardiovascular health and less healthcare utilization, a new study published by JAMA Cardiology suggests. The study authors found that areas with restrictions on trans fats in foods had less hospitalizations for heart attacks and strokes.

These findings suggest that enacting a widespread ban on trans fats may be beneficial for the general public and could reduce healthcare spending, according to the study.

"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 study author Tamar S. Polonsky, MD, MSCI. "If we enact a more complete restriction on trans fatty acids, it could mean even more widespread benefits for people long term."

Trans fats are commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and chips. Consumption of trans fats can raise both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of multiple diseases without having any known health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Numerous studies show a link between eating foods high in trans fats and cardiovascular disease, which has caused areas to ban the use of trans fats. Recently, communities in New York have enacted a strict ban against their use in restaurants.

Included in the study were data from the state department of health and census estimates for individuals living in New York counties. Specifically, the authors focused on hospital admissions for heart attacks and stroke to determine what role trans fats may play in the conditions.

After the restrictions were in place for 3 or more years, individuals living in areas that banned trans fats had fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke compared with areas where the ban was not enacted. The decline was 6.2% for both conditions, according to the study.

"It is a pretty substantial decline," said lead author Eric Brandt, MD. "Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population."

The FDA approved a nationwide ban on partially hydrogenated oil that will take effect in 2018. This regulation would effectively eliminate trans fats in foods, according to the study.

Currently, the FDA allows companies to label up to 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving as 0 grams, which the authors said may mislead consumers about their dietary intake of trans fats. While one serving can contain less than half a gram of trans fats, eating more than 1 serving can increase health risks, especially since the recommended intake is 0 grams per day.

"With the upcoming FDA regulation, people need not be so vigilant," Dr Brant said.

While the FDA is implementing a ban on trans fats, some naturally occur in foods, such as meat, milk, and dairy products, according to the USDA.

These new findings confirm that avoiding trans fats may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, while reducing unnecessary hospitalization, the study concluded.