New York’s trans fat ban is working

By Sheryl Kay • Published: November 8th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

No one likes to be told what to eat, especially if that demand includes giving up some of our most favorite foods.

Such was the outcry several years ago when the city of New York placed strict limits on the amount of trans fats that restaurants could serve in their foods.

Unlike saturated fats, which occur naturally in animals, trans fats are generally manufactured from a vegetable oil. This oil is transformed into a more solid fat, like margarine or shortening … and it is considered far more unhealthy than other fats.

The city rolled out the regulation in 2007. A year later the trans fat ban became a mandate that all food-service establishments had to follow. Researchers immediately jumped on the bandwagon, collecting almost 7,000 receipts from customers exiting restaurants before the ban was enforced, and then comparing those to almost 8,000 receipts taken from customers in 2009.

Upon careful analysis, the investigators found that the ban is indeed working. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the results show that the average drop in trans fats per purchase was 2.4 grams. Even when investigators looked at both trans and saturated fats, they still found a drop of 1.9 grams of unhealthy fats per person. This translates to a 21-calorie decrease in fat per purchase.

The ban has been so effective that now 15 other jurisdictions across the country have followed suit.

But the drop in fat doesn’t mean you should head to your favorite trans-fat-free restaurant and eat everything on the menu. The researchers caution that the numbers do not mean all restaurants now serve healthy food. There are many foods that are already trans-fat-free, so consumers would do well to rely on common sense rather than falling back on restaurant regulations.