How Evil Are Transfats?

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  Last updated April 20, 2017 at 2:23 pm


The evils of transfats have been revealed in a striking study conducted by Yale University and reported today in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

Transfats or transfatty acids (TFAs) are found in modern diets where partially hydrogenated oils are used. They are typically found in baked goods, yeast breads, fried foods, chips, crackers, and margarine. It has long been realised that consumption of TFAs is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and some jurisdictions in the USA have banned TFAs in food.

This study compared counties in New York State with TFA restrictions with counties that did not have such restrictions during the period 2002 to 2013. They used data from the New York State Department of Health’s State-wide Planning and Research Cooperative System as well as census population estimates and they included residents who were hospitalized for heart attack or stroke.

They compared 8.4 million adults in TFA restrictions counties against 3.3 million adults in counties without restrictions. Three or more years after restriction implementation in 2007, the population with TFA restrictions experienced significant declines in heart attack and stroke events. Combined heart attack and stroke events declined by 6.2%, heart attacks were down by 7.8% and a nonsignificant decline in strokes of 3.6% was seen when compared to the non-restriction populations.

This clear demonstration of the harmful effects of TFAs and the dramatic effect of taking them out of the food chain has emboldened health officials to call for more extensive restrictions to the food supply across the USA. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans a nationwide restriction in 2018.

In Australia we have been ahead of the international curve on action against TFAs with the elimination of them from margarine dating back to 1990. Large fast food chains in Australia have also acted by switching from oils high in trans fats to other oils.

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About the Author

Paul Willis
Paul is a respected leader in the science community with an impressive career in science. He has a background in vertebrate palaeontology, studying the fossils of crocodiles and other reptiles. He also has a long history as a science communicator, with a career spanning as Director of The Royal Institution of Australia, presenter and host for Australia’s Science Channel, working for the ABC on TV programs such as Catalyst and Quantum as well as radio and online. He’s written books and articles on dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and is finding new ways to engage the people of Australia with the science that underpins their world. Follow him on Twitter @fossilcrox.