Trans Fats Ban - Behind the News
NYC Trans Fat Ban Does the Job
Decrease in trans fats is equivalent to about a 22-calorie drop in trans fat per purchase.
By Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today
Medically Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD
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MONDAY, July 16, 2012 (MedPage Today) —The amount of trans fats New Yorkers get from lunch at a fast-food chain has fallen significantly since the city implemented regulations that barred the fat from restaurants, researchers found.
In 2006, New York City approved the first ban on trans fats in restaurant chains. The regulations, which were phased in beginning in July 2007, still allowed meals to contain a small amount of trans fats, since federal regulations permit products that contain up to 0.5 g of trans fat to be labeled as containing "zero" grams of the fat.
By 2009, after the ban had been in place, the trans fat content of meals fell by a mean of 2.4 g, from 2.91 g in 2007 to 0.51 g in 2009, Christine Curtis, MBA, of the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, and colleagues reported in the July 16 issue of theAnnals of Internal Medicine.
That's equal to about a 22-calorie drop in trans fat per purchase — an important one, the researchers said, given that some estimates have linked 40 daily calories from trans fat to a 23 percent increased risk of heart disease.
The study showed a "large and probably clinically meaningful reduction in the trans fat content of lunchtime purchases," they wrote.
To assess the legislation's effects on trans and saturated fat content, the researchers looked at lunch receipts matched to nutritional information, and conducted brief lunchtime surveys with customers at 168 Manhattan fast food chains in 2007 and 2009 — before and after the legislation was implemented.
Ultimately, they examined a total of 6,969 food purchases in 2007 and 7,885 purchases in 2009.
Curtis and colleagues found that the mean amount of trans fat per purchase fell by a significant 2.4 g during that time.
Declines were greatest at hamburger chains, followed by Mexican food places and fried chicken chains, they found.
The drop in trans fat occurred without a commensurate rise in saturated fat, the researchers wrote, though there was still a significant mean 0.55-g increase in saturated fat per meal.
The greatest rises in saturated fat content were seen at sandwich chains and fried chicken chains, they reported.
The overall combination of both trans plus saturated fat fell by a mean 1.9 g.
Also, the proportion of lunches that contained absolutely no trans fats nearly doubled, rising from 32 percent pre-legislation to 59 percent afterwards.
In multivariate analyses, the researchers found that the poverty rate of the neighborhood in which the chain restaurant was located wasn't associated with the changes — suggesting the legislation "provided equal benefit to patrons of restaurants in high- and low-poverty neighborhoods."
They noted that the study was cross-sectional and thus can't prove causality, but concluded that "local regulation seems to be successful at reducing exposure to trans fat in restaurants."
But completely nixing "exposure to the industrially produced form of this harmful and unnecessary addition to our food supply, found in partially hydrogenated oils, will require federal action," the authors added.
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