Trans fats are often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads like margarine. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
health

Billions still exposed to toxic trans fat: WHO

17 Comments
By Robin MILLARD

Five billion people are exposed to higher heart disease risks through trans fat, the World Health Organization said Monday, calling out countries that have failed to act against the toxic substance.

The WHO issued an appeal in 2018 for the industrially produced fatty acids in foods to be eliminated worldwide by 2023 amid evidence it caused 500,000 premature deaths every year.

Although 43 countries with combined populations of 2.8 billion people have now implemented best-practice policies, the other five billion plus people on the planet remain unprotected, the U.N.'s health agency said.

It said Egypt, Australia and South Korea are among countries that have not enacted such policies and have particularly high rates of heart disease from trans fat.

The solidified oil that clogs up arteries around the heart is often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads like margarine.

"Trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills, and should have no place in food," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said amid the release of the annual progress report. "It’s time to get rid of it once and for all."

He added the substance carries "huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems."

Food producers use trans fat because they have a longer shelf life and are cheaper than some alternatives.

Best practice on eliminating trans fat means either a mandatory national limit of two grammes of industrially-produced trans fat per 100 grammes of total fat in all foods; or a national ban on the production or use of partially-hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of trans fat.

The WHO said that nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat intake were not implementing best-practice policies.

They are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea.

Francesco Branca, the WHO's nutrition and food safety director, called on those countries to take "urgent action".

Sixty nations now had trans fat elimination policies, covering 3.4 billion people or 43 percent of the world's population.

Of those countries, 43 are implementing best practice standards, largely in Europe and the Americas. However, such standards have yet to be adopted by any low-income countries.

"There are some regions of the world which do not believe the problem is there," Branca told reporters, insisting that it is "easy for them to take action to prevent these products being dumped onto them."

The non-profit organization Resolve to Save Lives partnered with the WHO to produce the report.

"There's simply no excuse for any country not taking action to protect their people from this artificial toxic chemical," said its president Tom Frieden, a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Only your heart will know the difference. You can eliminate artificial trans fat without changing the cost, taste or the availability of great food."

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, of which 85 percent were due to heart attacks and strokes.

Eliminating trans fats is seen as an easy way to reduce the numbers.

Frieden said global elimination was within reach, pointing to big countries like Nigeria and Mexico moving towards the finish line.

"We're optimistic that the world can make trans fat history," he said.

© 2023 AFP

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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Gee, and here I thought the four food groups were fat, sugar, sodium and alcohol. Silly me!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

isn't desert at the top of the food triangle?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Amazing how many artificial alternatives have been touted as healthier than the original then turn out to be nothing of the sort...

Butter is the supreme sandwich spread, prove me wrong!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Wobot

Indeed, butter was demonised for decades, such a shame. The experts that decide what is safe for us regarding food and pharmaceuticals are driven by money. The public’s interest and safety is secondary to profits, we see it again and again.

Governments have a duty to ensure food safety and encourage healthy eating as much as we have an individual duty to ourselves and our loved ones to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

isn't desert at the top of the food triangle?

Only in Northern Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula, and a part of Eastern Asia.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Eliminating trans fats is seen as an easy way to reduce the numbers.

Not so easy it seems

4 ( +4 / -0 )

We don't eat many trans fats. A tiny amount in the butter for morning toast. We use olive oil.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Amazing how many artificial alternatives have been touted as healthier than the original then turn out to be nothing of the sort...

Butter is the supreme sandwich spread, prove me wrong!

Yes, butter is great.

I sometimes prepare a mix of butter and olive oil, which is soft enough for easy spreading right out of the fridge...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

as much as we have an individual duty to ourselves and our loved ones to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Very Maharishi Mahesh Yogi! Or stating the flipping obvious

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I sometimes prepare a mix of butter and olive oil, which is soft enough for easy spreading right out of the fridge...

That sounds like something I should try.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I gave up believing what any government says about good or bad food after the US congress declared pizza is a vegetable

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

There are 3 food groups. Sugar, fat and chocolate. I find that cake is an exceedingly good source of all three.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Since this is Japan, where does Japan sit in adoption of banning these? Food labels could be improved here as well. Many just list Fat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

isn't desert at the top of the food triangle?

Only in Northern Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula, and a part of Eastern Asia.

D'oh! I meant dessert.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Amazing how many artificial alternatives have been touted as healthier than the original then turn out to be nothing of the sort...

I do not recall transfats ever being sold as healthy. They made foods taste good but we all knew they were bad for us. I've been hearing that drumbeat for at least two decades but I'm human and weak and those foods just taste so good ...................

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Amazing how many artificial alternatives have been touted as healthier than the original then turn out to be nothing of the sort...

I do not recall transfats ever being sold as healthy.

Might depend on our age. I recall margarine being promoted for a very long time as a healthy alternative to butter. It really should be banned. Today, many are talking about banning it, but somehow it's still very widespread (pun not intended)...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

everything in moderation

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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