Success has spawned similar efforts across the U.S., report finds,,,,
MONDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- When the New York City Health Department mandated that city restaurants change their menus to restrict trans fats, known to be a health hazard, the action was greeted with resistance and grumbling.
"There were the usual 'nanny state' comments," said Dr. Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner of the department's Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control.
Initially, the campaign was voluntary, Silver said. "But after one year, there was no change," she said, so public health officials decided to make the ban mandatory.
In December 2006, the city required that artificial trans fats be phased out of restaurant food, and the mandate was in full effect by November 2008. Silver and colleagues from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report on the effort in the July 21 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
And they deem it a success. Total saturated fat and trans fat in French fries, for instance, decreased by more than 50 percent in New York City restaurants, according to the report. Overall, the health officials found, the use of trans fats for frying, baking or cooking and in spreads declined from 50 percent to less than 2 percent.
Consumers didn't seem to mind. "It became clear that trans fats were being successfully replaced, and no one noticed the difference," Silver said. "Foods tasted just as good, and diners are healthier."
Trans fats were often used, she said, because they last longer than traditional vegetable oil, but "there was nothing terribly delicious about trans fat."
Trans fats, also call partially hydrogenated oils, are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. The fats are commonly found in French fries, doughnuts and baked goods, as well as margarine and shortening.
The problem with trans f
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