Photo: Scott Ableman (Flickr)
Four Years Later
Four years after New York City’s widely publicized prohibition of trans fats in fast food went into effect, a study conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is showing improvement in citizens’ eating habits.
Trans fatty acids are considered dangerous because they simultaneously raise ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and lower ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) in the blood stream, drastically increasing consumers’ risk for cardiovascular illness. An increase of just 4.5 grams of trans fats to a 2,000 calorie daily diet can up one’s risk of heart disease by 23%.
The ban was enacted in July of 2008 after being passed unanimously by the New York Board of Health. Once it was approved, restaurants in New York City had 18 months to wean themselves off of ingredients containing artificial trans fatty acids.
In 2007, researchers examined the receipts of nearly 7,000 people who dined at fast food restaurants. The data collection was repeated in 2009, with closer to 8,000 receipts.
The study showed that, over the course of two years, New Yorkers reduced their consumption an average of 2.4 grams of trans fats in a typical lunch.
Tipping the balance slightly, declines in trans fat consumption were accompanied by a slight increase in saturated fat consumption — an uptick of about 0.55 grams. Saturated fat is also correlated with increases in LDL cholesterol levels.
On the whole, though, the picture is positive.
“Given that one-third of calories [consumed] in the United States comes from food prepared away from home, this suggests a remarkable achievement in potential cardiovascular risk reduction through food policy,” the study’s authors told the Los Angeles Times.