Trans Fat Ban a Success in NYC; Soda Ban Fight Looming
Prohibiting trans fats from New York City restaurants led to a measurable decrease in consumption, according to a study released just days ahead of a public hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest citywide health proposal.
The study, released this week by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, shows that the law limiting the amount of trans fat in restaurant foods to less than .5 grams per serving led to an average decrease of 2.4 grams per purchase. Hamburger chains saw the biggest drop at 3.8 grams, while Mexican food and fried chicken chains were second and third, respectively.
The report comes a week before the first public hearing on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on certain types and sizes of sugary drinks like sodas and iced teas.
New York-based nutritionists Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, the Nutrition Twins, were not surprised by the results of the trans fat study.
“If people are going to buy a food and its makeup has been changed to be healthier, they will be eating better by default,” said Lakatos Shames. “My sister and I have seen the damage a poor diet can do to the human body and we are thrilled any time someone’s health and quality of life can be improved by simple changes like the ones this ban forced into effect.”
Trans fat, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease, occurs naturally in some meats and dairy. The New York ban took aim at the artificially produced versions of trans fat, found in deep fried foods like French fries and fried chicken.
The ban, which was approved in 2006, had a ripple effect across the country as other state and local governments followed suit. McDonald's lowered trans fat content in its foods nationwide after complying with the law in New York.
“Trans fat is a double whammy on your body’s health, since it simultaneously lowers good HDL cholesterol and raises bad LDL cholesterol,” says Lakatos Shames. “People should limit trans fat to less than 1 percent of the diet, which is about 2 grams per day for someone who eats about 2,000 calories a day. This ban literally helped restaurant goers make the right choice when eating out.”
The Nutrition Twins emphasize that it’s still up to individualts to make the right choices when it comes to fat consumption. They note that trans fats are still in many of the foods we eat and that consumers often ignore serving sizes and overeat, offsetting the reduced amounts of unhealthy fats found in some packaged and restaurant foods.
“It’s still important to read labels and nutritional information and look for those items that do not have partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils listed on the ingredient label,” says Lakatos Shames. “A product legally can list that it has no trans fat if it has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving.”
Soda Ban Fight Looming
The trans-fat report was released one week before the New York Board of Public Health is set to hear comments on Bloomberg’s proposed “soda ban.” This initiative would prohibit food carts, pizza shops, and restaurants from selling sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces.
“We don't think it's coincidence that the report came out this week and we love that attention is being called to the problem our country has with the overconsumption of sugar,” says Lakatos Shame. “People can find a way to get larger sodas if they really want them. But let’s stop offering the super-size sodas and, in a month, the 16-ounce will be the new norm.”
Battle lines are being drawn for the debate on this divisive proposal. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have launched aggressive social media, advertising, and airplane banner campaigns in New York City in an effort to make this a freedom-of-choice debate.
The ban, which will be voted on in September, could be in effect by March of 2013.
—David L’Heureux is a senior editor at Fitbie
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