The FDA recently announced that it was enacting a ban on artificial trans fats that are added to food products. But will this policy actually improve health outcomes? According to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the answer is “yes.” The study examined a similar ban that took effect in 2004 in Denmark, which was the first country to regulate the use of artificial trans fats in certain food products and to nearly eliminate artificial trans fats from its food supply. To assess the effect of this ban on the incidence of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD), researchers set up a control group using data from people in five other countries with similar rates of cardiovascular disease mortality as Denmark. In order to match the Danish population (prior to the trans fat ban) as closely as possible, the researchers took into account data from the other countries such as annual food expenditures, rates of alcohol use, average blood pressure measurements, and the amount of vegetables consumed. Here is what the researchers found:
Compared with the control population, Denmark experienced an average of about 14.2 fewer deaths due to cardiovascular disease per 100,000 people per year in the first three years after the trans fat ban.
CVD mortality continued to drop over ten years, but trends in Danish life, and new health policies, meant the improved numbers weren’t necessarily due solely to the trans fat ban.
While trans fat extends the shelf life of foods and is therefore a valuable ingredient for food manufacturers, scientists have long known that trans fat is detrimental to heart health. Therefore, the new study is important as it seems to not only validate scientists’ concerns, but also indicates that banning trans fat could be an effective policy for improving public health when it comes to cardiovascular disease.
Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine