It’s no secret that trans-fatty acids improve the taste and shelf life of food, which is why they have been used in everything from cookies and crackers to fast-food french fries since they were invented in the 1890s. Unfortunately for consumers and manufacturers, trans fats are a notorious artery clogger and have been linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
A new study shows that recent trans-fat bans in certain New York counties have effectively decreased the rate of heart attacks and strokes in those areas. What’s more, a national trans-fat ban will be put in place by the Food and Drug Administration starting in 2018.
According to the study published in JAMA Cardiology, cardiovascular disease is on the decline across the entire country. But three years after trans fats were banned in certain counties in New York State, those hospitals saw admissions for heart attacks and strokes decrease by an additional 6.2 percent beyond the nationwide average — indicating that the bans are working.
A byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats found their way into processed foods in the 1950s and ’60s, around the time when saturated fats were first associated with heart disease. They reigned throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s, when they were used in “healthy” foods that boasted “no saturated fats” on the label.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that trans fats, once thought to be healthier than saturated fats, were recognized to be a health hazard, but it has taken a surprisingly long time to get society to ditch trans fats for good. But come 2018 they will no longer be used in industry-prepared foods, thanks to regulation by the FDA.
Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, explained to the New York Times that “government-sponsored research led to the understanding that a product considered safe for about 100 years was shown to be the most harmful fat in the food supply.”
In 2004, Denmark banned trans fats, and subsequent studies proved that the ban was effective in saving lives. In 2007, New York followed suit.
Dr. Eric J. Brandt, lead author of the recent study published in JAMA, explained to the New York Times that a good number of manufacturers have replaced trans fats with palm oil, which is high in saturated fat and also leads to deforestation — but does not contain trans fats.
“Even when saturated fat is used in place of trans fat, there’s still a net benefit,” he said — meaning that although saturated fat isn’t great, it’s the lesser evil when it comes to health. He also pointed out during the interview that there “really is no safe level for artificially produced trans fat,” and “it’s best to avoid all products that have any partially hydrogenated oils.”
The bottom line? There’s no such thing as “moderation” when it comes to trans fats — abstinence is really the way to go if you want to avoid heart disease.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you believe trans fats should be banned nationwide? Do you consume trans fats? Should people be able to choose what they want to eat, or is it the government’s responsibility to enforce regulations?