The consumption of hydrogenated fats, also known as trans-fats, has been associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Hence the invitation to eat less trans-fats in order to protect the health of the heart. Research published in JAMA Cardiology has now provided data to support this recommendation. In some American cities, a measure has been adopted that has severely limited the intake of trans-fats in restaurants: in those cities, after a few years, a lower number of hospital admissions for heart attacks and strokes have been detected: “The association between the intake of trans-fats as well as saturated fats of animal origin and cardiovascular risk has been known for some time. These epidemiological data confirm this”, says Dr. Corrado Lodigiani, Head of the Centre for Thrombosis and Hemorrhagic Diseases at Humanitas.
Less trans fats
Trans-Fatty acids are a type of fat contained in some animal products – but in small quantities, the American Heart Association recalls – or which are formed in the industrial processing of vegetable fats. Therefore, they can be found in products such as industrial baked foods, biscuits and crackers.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has planned an intervention to reduce the use of trans fats from 2018. However, eleven cities in the State of New York played in advance by adopting similar measures between 2007 and 2011. A team of researchers at Yale University (USA) compared the number of hospital admissions for strokes and heart attacks of residents in these areas with those areas in which hydrogenated fat use had not been restricted.
Results of the study
It has emerged that, three years after the introduction of these restrictions, in the areas where they were in force, the number of hospitalizations for heart attacks and strokes was lower than in the areas without restrictions: negative 6.2%.
The number of cardiovascular events identified by researchers has therefore decreased: “Let us remember that myocardial infarction and stroke are the primary causes of death from cardiovascular disease in Western countries and the correlation between these and lifestyle, and therefore the eating habits, is very strong,” recalls Dr. Lodigiani. Excessive consumption of trans-fats and saturated fats promotes atherosclerosis, the mechanism that predisposes one to the onset of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke, especially in women after menopause “.
In the light of this correlation, international public health authorities have warned against the excessive intake of these substances: “International guidelines recommend, for example, reducing the consumption of saturated or trans fats and consuming saturated fat at less than 1% of the total daily energy consumption”. This and other indications put individuals in a position to make healthier food choices: “Obligations to indicate the content of fatty acids that can contribute to increasing cardiovascular risk on product labels will allow anyone to follow a healthier diet,” concludes Dr. Lodigiani. A diet that is a friend of the cardiovascular system provides for increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, white meat, fish, especially fish rich in “good fats” and legumes.