In 2006 New York City issued its unprecedented restrictions on the use of trans fats in fast food restaurants. Now the first study reporting the results of this restriction is being published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers found that following the ban, restaurant lunch patrons consumed substantially less trans fat without really increasing their intake of saturated fat.
The authors analyzed lunches purchased before and after the restrictions were imposed at 11 fast food chains in New York City and found an average drop of 2.4 grams of trans fat per patron. The greatest reductions in trans fat intake were seen in patrons of hamburger chains followed by Mexican food and fried chicken chains. The number of meals containing zero grams of trans fat purchased before and after the ban increased from 32% to 59%.
Trans fats are associated with an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the United States. An increase of 40 calories per day in a 2000 calorie diet increases risk for coronary heart disease by up to 23%.
Because one third of the meals eaten in the United States comes from foods prepared outside of the home, these results show a remarkable risk reduction for cardiovascular disease due to local policies.
Publication of the results in Annals provides hard evidence that trans fat regulations in local communities can make a difference in the public's health.