Trans Fat Bans May Be Bearing Fruit

Cholesterol levels among U.S. youths have improved even though too many children remain overweight, suggesting that bans on the use of trans fat in restaurants may be having an impact on public health.

NBC News reported Aug. 8 that a new study found that high-cholesterol levels among children ages 6-19 dropped 28 percent during 2007-10, compared to 1988-94 and 1999-2002. It was the first decline in childhood cholesterol in 20 years. Cholesterol levels among adults also declined.

Childhood obesity levels didn’t change, suggesting that kids aren’t exercising more or eating less. Experts speculate that the declining cholesterol rates are due to what children aren’t eating — trans-fats that raise “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels. “I love the idea that reduced use of hydrogenated trans fats might be responsible,” says New York University nutritionist Marion Nestle. “If so — and as usual it’s clear that more research is needed — it would mean that public health measures like the trans fat ban in New York City are actually doing enough good to be measurable.”

Still, experts warn that the obesity epidemic still must be addressed if today’s children are to avoid cardiovascular health problems in the future.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

(Photo © Andrea Nguyen via Flickr)