Positive Proof that Banning Trans Fats Leads to Improved Health

Research like this might just give government intrusion into our lives a good name.
Think before you fry—or buy. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Jul 16, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

People may have taken to calling New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “Nanny Bloomberg” for trying to regulate their diet and smoking habits, but it looks like Nanny knows best.

Citing a report from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Los Angeles Times reports that the “pioneering ban on all but the smallest amounts of trans fats in restaurant food has led to a significant reduction in consumption, a change that should translate into better cardiovascular health in the nation’s largest city . . . It also demonstrates that coffee shops, fast-food joints and other eateries can play a major role in improving the health of the public, the study authors said.”

The article quotes Kelley Scanlon, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as saying, “Nationwide, the average daily consumption of trans fats has gone from 4.6 grams in the 1990s to 1.3 grams in 2010.”

MORE: New Yorkers Hold 'Million Big Gulp March' to Protest Soda Ban

In evaluating the same study, CBS New York commented that, “Americans get more than a third of their daily calories from foods prepared outside the home . . . New York’s trans-fat ban—later copied by more than a dozen other state and local governments—didn’t put all the onus on the consumer to do the right thing. ‘By making the default option the healthier choice,’ everyone benefits regardless of their nutrition awareness or willpower, Alice Lichtenstein, a nutrition specialist at Tufts University, wrote in a commentary on the research.” In addition, she noted that, “The regulation may serve as a model for future successful public health initiatives.”

The study should also serve as a wake-up call to states that have resisted following in the footsteps of California, which became the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants in 2010. Last year, The New York Times reported, “Several state legislatures are passing laws that prohibit municipalities and other local governments from adopting regulations aimed at curbing rising obesity and improving public health, such as requiring restaurants to provide nutritional information on menus or to eliminate trans fats from the foods they serve.”

So, thanks, Nanny Bloomberg. Maybe you should be celebrated instead of vilified.

The New Yorker recently suggested exactly that, saying, “His administration has been marked by one crusade after another: against smoking, against salt, against trans fats, against soda. But those crusades have, for the most part—the one against salt is the notable exception—been remarkably successful. The trans-fat ban was a model for the nation.”

Personally, I think one sentence on WebMD says all anyone really needs to know about trans fat: “This man-made fat was developed to protect us against butter. Turns out, it acts like butter inside our bodies.”

Do you support the ban on trans fat, or is this too much government regulation for your taste?

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Lawrence Karol is a freelance writer and editor who lives in New York City in a mid-century-modern-inspired apartment with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet editor, who enjoys writing about design, food, and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence

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