Why countries must eliminate trans-fatty acid from food

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber

The World Health Organisation (WHO) wants industrially-produced trans fats - linked with 500,000 deaths worldwide each year - stripped out of the global food supply within five years.

But studies gradually revealed that trans fats wreck cholesterol levels in the blood and drive up the risk of heart disease. Numerous fats are in foods or oils made by local producers.

And so, in 2015, the FDA gave the food industry three years to stop using partially hydrogenated oils. "Almost" because it can kill you. It estimates that these hydrogenated vegetable oils increase cholesterol levels leading to a greater risk for heart disease and the deaths of more than half a million people every year.

"Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?" asked Dr Tedros. While some governments have imposed limits on the amount of trans fat that can be contained in packaged food, others have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially produced trans fats.

Consumers didn't miss trans fats when they were replaced in Denmark, the first country to eliminate them, said Steen Stender, professor of nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen. "South Africa's experience can help guide other countries to take action so the benefits are felt equally around the world".

High-income countries have either banned these artificial fats or are in the process of banning them due to their connection to heart disease.

Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined Ghebreyesus at the rollout of the World Health Organization program. Products with higher trans fats levels are prohibited from entering or being sold in the country.

Heart attacks and strokes fell by more than 6 percent three years after some NY counties banned trans fats, researchers reported last year. But, according to Ntsie, "due to the important role that reduced trans fats play in the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), NDoH decided that trans fats regulations should stand alone". But the chemical process used to make them solid like butter also makes them clog arteries just as butter or lard does.

While WHO does not have the power to enact this global ban on trans fats, it hopes that future generations would be addicted to trans fats.

The six strategies World Health Organization has proposed include a review of dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats, the promotion of alternative healthier oils and fats, legislation and regulatory actions to curb trans fats, assessment of trans fats consumption in populations, creation of awareness about the risks of transfats and enforcement of policies and regulations. They include replacing trans fats with healthier oils such as olive oil, creating public awareness of the harms of trans fats, and enforcing anti-trans fat policies and laws.