Claim: Trans fat bans reducing heart attacks

Q: How do you know when trans fats researchers are lying?

A: They publish papers like this one.

This is like shootin’ fish in a barrel.

The researchers claim to have compared heart attacks rates in several New York counties with/without trans fat bans. They report a slightly lower rate in counties with ban. But the researchers have no data — not even an inkling — about the trans fat consumption of the populations, let alone any individuals. Also, heart attacks are multi-factorial phenomena that aren’t easily, if at all, linkable to specific causes. Past that, the bans on trans fats are based on junk science.

JunkScience gives this study Four Hillarys.

The media release and abstract are below.

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Ban on trans fats in diet may reduce heart attacks and stroke
YALE UNIVERSITY

New Haven, Conn.– People living in areas that restrict trans fats in foods had fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke compared to residents in areas without restrictions, according to a study led by a Yale researcher. This finding suggests the benefit of limiting trans fats could have widespread impact as trans fat restrictions are set to expand nationwide.

The study was published April 12 in JAMA Cardiology.

Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are commonly found in foods such as chips, crackers, fried foods, and baked goods. Minimal amounts of trans fat intake are linked to greater risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. In recent years, localities like New York City enacted policies to reduce trans fats in restaurants and other eateries. In 2018, an FDA ban on partially hydrogenated oil in foods, which will nearly eliminate dietary trans fat, takes effect nationwide.

To study the impact of restricting trans fats, Eric Brandt, M.D., and his co-authors compared outcomes for people living in New York counties with and without the restrictions. Using data from the state department of health and census estimates between 2002 and 2013, the researchers focused on hospital admissions for heart attack and stroke.

They found that three or more years after the restrictions were implemented, people living in areas with restrictions had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke based on trends in similarly urban areas without the restrictions. The decline for the combined conditions was 6.2%.

“It is a pretty substantial decline,” said Brandt, a clinical fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population. Trans fats are deleterious for cardiovascular health, and minimizing or eliminating them from the diet can substantially reduce rates of heart attack and stroke.”

The study results point to the possibility of much more widespread benefit as the FDA’s measure — which restricts trans fats in all food — are due to take effect in 2018, said Brandt.

“Even though some companies have reduced the amount of trans fat in food, current FDA labeling guidelines allow up to 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled as 0 grams, leaving consumers to scour labels for hidden trans fats, usually labeled as partially hydrogenated oils. With the upcoming FDA regulation, people need not be so vigilant. A nationwide trans fat ban is a win for the millions of people at risk for cardiovascular disease,” he said.

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Other study authors are Rebecca Myerson, Marcelo Coca Perraillon, and Tamar S. Polonsky.

This research was supported by the American Medical Association Seed Grant Research Program and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

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12 thoughts on “Claim: Trans fat bans reducing heart attacks”

  1. Even assuming this is not junk science, this study also makes the false assumption that people are static – meaning, they stay in one place and eat only where they live.
    As huge numbers of people commute in and out of New York City on a daily basis and thus eat many of their meals away from where they live, it is impossible to determine which locality’s food rules helped/hurt their health.

  2. Its typical of fake science because it avoids direct evidence and tries to prove things by looking at statistics for a wider topic

  3. Science has always looked at things that are not direct to then go to the more direct research and still that may be based on assumptions only with in our human experience. Read “Neuro Tribes” to get a sense of the diversity of coming to new theories and expanding ways to look at the world around us.

  4. It seems that the researchers are relying on their very large sample size (8.4m in treatment group and 3.3m in control group) to reduce the risk of confounding. As John B points out correctly, this is always a risk. However, when you have sample sizes that are this large, the effect of individuals eating meals in trans fat vs non-trans fat areas actually balances itself out statistically (roughly equal numbers of people wander for meals in and out of trans fat free areas). Not to mention that collecting “real data” about trans fat consumption would rely on people remembering exactly what they ate, when they ate it, and would cost a tremendous amount of money to collect! I’ll drop the margarine for a 6% reduction in strokes and heart attacks 🙂

  5. Actually this is pretty good compared to all the papers that do intention-to-treat analyses. Aside from everything others point out, the assumption is that the ban reduced consumption compared to control but, as pointed out, you don’t know what anybody ate before or even after. But, you simply don’t know so you can make of the result what you like. In intention-to-treat you have to actively include the data from people who you know didn’t conform to the protocol. I suppose including intention-to-treat studies in JunkScience.com would give junk a bad name.

  6. Whether trans fats do cause or don’t cause an increase in coronary disease is a mute point. The body has not evolved to deal with a lot of trans-fats. The real joke is that saturated fats are no less unhealthy, which trans-fat were meant to be healthy replacement. So why replace butter and lard they taste better and probably more health.

  7. The problem with such uncontrolled “studies” is that they attempt to make conclusions where causality is not proven and use general population statistics to argue for effects.

    The press release is also poor in that it makes initial claims without source and should have been tossed in the ‘circular file’.

  8. Linda Guffin says:
    April 12, 2017 at 4:54 PM
    Science has always looked at things that are not direct to then go to the more direct research and still that may be based on assumptions only with in our human experience.

    You are thinking of philosophy

  9. It’s really in the air–everyone that breathes air eventually dies–so it must be the air!!

    And I like the 4 Hillarys, though I might have gone for five.

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