Thanks to a ban on trans fats in restaurant foods, 11 counties in New York State (including New York City) have successfully reduced the number of heart attacks by 6% since 2007.
“This translates to 43 less heart attacks and strokes for every 100,000 people,” noted Yale University cardiology fellow Dr. Eric Brandt, who conducted a study comparing hospital admission records for facilities in those countries against 25 others that did not adopt the ban between 2002-2013. While he found that the number of patients admitted for cardiac episodes declines from more than 800 to fewer than 700 per 100,000, the greatest reduction was seen where the use of trans fats was eliminated.
Although some trans fats occur naturally in foods such as beef, pork, lamb, butter, and milk, most of what we eat today was created in labs by chemists such as Nobel laureate Paul Sabatier who worked in the late 1890s to develop the chemistry of hydrogenation, as well as Wilhelm Normann and others during the early 1900’s leading to the development of margarine as well as Crisco (the 1st artificial shortening, which was made largely made up of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil).
The man-made hydrogenated oils soon became popular for use in cooking numerous foods from fried chicken to donuts, and french fries to pie crust, cookies, and crackers thanks to its ability to “enhance flavor and texture.
It has since been found, however, that diets rich in trans fat not only leads to heart disease by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood, it is linked to elevated body weight and even memory loss. As a result, the FDA is now seeking to eliminate artificial trans fats from the American diet by next year. In the meantime, it should be noted that McDonald’s ceased cooking their french fries in trans fat more than 10 years ago, while Chick-fil-A claims to have eliminated artificial trans fat from its menu back in 2008.
It should also be noted that Crisco was reformulated 10 years ago to meet the FDA’s definition of “zero grams trans fats per serving ” (that is less than one gram per tablespoon, or up to 7% by weight; or less than 0.5 grams per serving size) by increasing the saturation process and then diluting the resulting solid fat with unsaturated vegetable oils. In fact, a formula to create more healthful cooking oils was created by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, which involves mixing olive, canola and soybean oils with water, monoglycerides, and fatty acids to form a “cooking fat” that reportedly works identically to trans and saturated fats.