The Impact of Policies to Reduce trans Fat Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence

Curr Dev Nutr. 2017 Nov 13;1(12):cdn.117.000778. doi: 10.3945/cdn.117.000778. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Background: The consumption of industrially produced trans fatty acids (TFAs) has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. In recognition of this, countries, states, and cities worldwide have implemented TFA policies aimed at reducing their availability in the food supply. Objective: This article aims to provide an update of the evidence of the effectiveness of policies aimed at reducing TFAs in the food supply. Methods: A systematic review of the literature from 2013 onward was conducted, building on a previously published review that examined the evidence of the impact of TFA policies worldwide from 2000 to 2012. Studies that were 1) empirical, 2) examined a TFA policy, and 3) examined the effect of the policy on TFA amounts and availability pre- and post-policy intervention were included. Modeling studies examining the impact of TFA policies on cardiovascular, equity, and economic outcomes were also included. Results: A total of 18 articles from the updated search were combined with 14 articles from the previous review (total = 32 articles). All types of TFA policies led to their reduction; however, trans fat bans had a larger impact (TFAs virtually eliminated) than did voluntary (range: 20-38% reduction in TFA intakes) or labeling (range: 30-74% reduction in TFA intakes, plasma serum, or breast-milk concentrations) approaches to reducing TFA amounts in the food supply. Product reformulation to reduce TFAs had variable effects on saturated fatty acid (SFA) contents in these foods; however, the combined amount of TFAs and SFAs declined in most products. Overall, the modeling studies indicated that TFA bans would reduce heart disease risk, benefit socioeconomically disadvantaged populations the most, and be cost-saving. Conclusions: Policies aimed at reducing TFAs in the food supply are effective and will likely reduce the burden of diet-related disease, particularly among the most vulnerable socioeconomic groups. Although all policy approaches lead to reductions in TFAs in foods, TFA bans are likely the most effective, economical, and equitable policy approach to reducing TFAs in the food supply.

Keywords: bans; cardiovascular disease prevention; labeling; nutrition policy; trans fatty acids.