United Nations agency calls for all countries to rid foods of trans fat

Henrietta Brewer
May 16, 2018

World Health Organization has said that trans fats intake leads to more than 5,00,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, and wants its use phased out. The WHO announced a new plan to phase out trans fats from the food supply.

In a statement this week, the United Nations health agency said eliminating trans fats is critical to preventing deaths worldwide. In India, that number is pegged at about 60,000 deaths, said Tom Frieden, former Head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told Business Line, speaking from Geneva. Manufacturers use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. They are often present in frying oils, fried snacks, margarine and shortening since trans fat-based oils have a longer shelf life (don't worry, Canada has almost phased them out entirely in those products). "But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food", The global health body said in the statement.

Trans fats should be less than 1 per cent of the total count (less than 2.2gm per day in a 2,000 calorie); both fats must be replaced by polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fat.

Some have banned partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats, the World Health Organization said. Partially hydrogenated oils are primarily used for deep frying and as an ingredient in baked goods.

Yan Zong-hai (顏宗海), director of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital's Clinical Toxins Department, said that in addition to cardiovascular disease, global studies show that artificial trans fats can also cause obesity, as well as increasing the risk of fatty liver and Alzheimer's disease.

The United States Food and Drug Administration reports that as many as 7,000 fatalities and 20,000 heart attacks can be prevented by the reduction of trans fats in the American diet.

REPLACE urges countries to assess and monitor trans fats consumption, establish laws to stamp out trans fats and raises awareness of their risk. In addition, there are indications that trans fat may increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.

Industrially produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and have for decades been present in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods.

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that it is mounting a campaign to have unsafe man-made trans fats disqualified from use in all food products.

Dr. Walter C. Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he thought the W.H.O. initiative would likely lead to the extinction of trans fats in the near future.

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