Cholesterol control beyond the clinic: New York City's trans fat restriction

Ann Intern Med. 2009 Jul 21;151(2):129-34. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-2-200907210-00010.


Decades after key modifiable risk factors were identified, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of preventable death, and only one quarter of persons with high cholesterol levels have attained recommended levels of control. Cholesterol control efforts have focused on consumer education and medical treatment. A powerful, complementary approach is to change the makeup of food, a route the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene took when it restricted artificial trans fat--a contributor to coronary heart disease--in restaurants. The Department first undertook a voluntary campaign, but this effort did not decrease the proportion of restaurants that used artificial trans fat. In December 2006, the Board of Health required that artificial trans fat be phased out of restaurant food. To support implementation, the Department provided technical assistance to restaurants. By November 2008, the restriction was in full effect in all New York City restaurants and estimated restaurant use of artificial trans fat for frying, baking, or cooking or in spreads had decreased from 50% to less than 2%. Preliminary analyses suggest that replacement of artificial trans fat has resulted in products with more healthful fatty acid profiles. For example, in major restaurant chains, total saturated fat plus trans fat in French fries decreased by more than 50%. At 2 years, dozens of national chains had removed artificial trans fat, and 13 jurisdictions, including California, had adopted similar laws. Public health efforts that change food content to make default choices healthier enable consumers to more successfully meet dietary recommendations and reduce their cardiovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Health Education
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Food*
  • New York City
  • Restaurants
  • Risk Factors
  • Trans Fatty Acids / adverse effects*
  • United States


  • Dietary Fats
  • Trans Fatty Acids