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Safer Fats for Healthier Hearts: The Case for Eliminating Dietary Artificial Trans Fat Intake

Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

Dr. Gerberding is the Former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30329.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest:  Dr. Gerberding has provided public health consultation to Edelman, a public engagement firm with clients in the food industry.

Requests for Single Reprints: Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH, 2484 Briarcliff Road, Suite 22-188, Atlanta, GA 30329; e-mail, JulieGerberdingMD.LLC@gmail.com.

Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(2):137-138. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-151-2-200907210-00012
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In 2003, Tiburon, California (a small community in Marin County, just north of San Francisco), initiated a successful effort to voluntarily eliminate trans fatty acids from the cooking oils used in its 18 local restaurants (1). Since then, many city and state governments across the United States are following suit, and they are struggling with the controversies inherent in defining their role in reducing the fat content of foods prepared and served in their communities. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's trans fat restriction program (described by Angell and colleagues in this issue [2]) provides a powerful demonstration that commercial, social, and political barriers to regulating fats used for food preparation in restaurants and similar venues can be overcome, albeit not voluntarily, even in a sprawling metropolis with diverse stakeholders and contentious interest groups. This successful intervention creates a very visible precedent that raises a key policy question: Is it time to institute broader federal government efforts to assure that people in all communities can experience the potential health benefits of safer dietary fats? To answer this question, it is important to assess the evidence of a significant health benefit from reducing exposure to trans fats, the feasibility of doing so on a national scale, and the degree to which federal government intervention is essential to achieving health impact.

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