Hospitalisation for heart attacks and strokes is less common among people living in areas that restrict trans fats in foods compared to residents in areas without restrictions, new research has found.
"Our study highlights the power of public policy to impact the cardiovascular health of a population," said lead author Eric Brandt from Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, US.
Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are commonly found in fried foods, chips, crackers and baked goods.
Eating even minimal amounts is linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.
Some communities in the US -- most notably New York City -- have eliminated the use of trans fats in restaurants and eateries in recent years.
To study the impact of restricting trans fats, researchers 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 the bans had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke when compared to similar urban areas where no limits existed.
The decline for the combined conditions was 6.2 per cent, said the study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.
"It is a pretty substantial decline," Brandt said.
"The results are impressive, given that the study focused on trans fatty acid bans in restaurants, as opposed to complete bans that included food bought in stores," senior author Tamar S. Polonsky, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, added.
"If we enact a more complete restriction on trans fatty acids, it could mean even more widespread benefits for people," Polonsky said.