A report by the World Health Organization has revealed that five billion people globally remain unprotected from harmful Industrially produced trans fat (also called industrially produced trans-fatty acids). Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart diseases and other health problems. This comes in amidst the global movement launched by WHO to eradicate the menace. As estimated, global elimination of trans fats will save about 17.5 million lives over the next 25 years and prevent avoidable suffering.
WHO rolled out the REPLACE action package in 2018, which provides best-practice policies for eliminating industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023. Following the roll out of the action package, 43 countries have implemented best-practice policies for tackling trans fat, with 2.8 million people now protected, a nearly six-fold increase. Despite these efforts, much remains to be done, with over 100 countries yet to take action which makes the goal look unachievable.
High intake of trans fat increases death risk by 34 percent.
Industrially produced trans fat is commonly found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads. Trans fat intake accounts for about 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year around the world. High intake of trans fats increases the risk of death from any cause by 34 percent and from coronary heart disease by 28 percent. Facts show that for every 1 percent increase in daily energy obtained from trans fats, coronary heart disease mortality rises by 12 percent.
Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explains that trans fat have no known benefits and huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems. He said trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills, and should have no place in food. Currently, 9 of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat intake do not implement the best-practice policy. The countries named are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Nepal, Pakistan and Republic of Korea.
WHO suggests two best-practice policy alternatives.
As established by WHO, the trans fat best-practices policies follow specific criteria and limit industrially produced trans fat in all settings. The global health organization suggests that total trans fat intake must not exceed 1% of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. The highlighted two best-practice policy alternatives include a mandatory national limit of 2 grams of industrially produced trans fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods and mandatory national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods.
In his remarks, Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, asserts that while trans fat continues to claim people’s lives, efforts towards curbing the menace is at risk of stalling. Governments can stop these preventable deaths by implementing a best-practice policy. While most trans fat elimination policies to date have been implemented in higher-income countries (largely in the Americas and in Europe), an increasing number of middle-income countries are adopting these policies, including Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, Philippines and Ukraine.
Nigeria and others are considering the best-practice policies.
Best-practice policies are also being considered in Mexico, Nigeria and Sri Lanka in 2023. If implemented, Nigeria would be the second and most populous country in Africa to adopt trans fat best-practice elimination policy. Until recently, no low-income countries have yet adopted the best-practice policy to eliminate trans fat. As part of the efforts, WHO highlighted four priority recommendations for countries in 2023, which are adopting best-practice policies, monitoring and surveillance, healthy oil replacements and advocacy. The global health organization also urges food manufacturers to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from their products, aligning to the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) commitments.