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Trans-fat ban policy could save Nigeria $520m

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By Usman Oladimeji

About 10,000 heart disease-related deaths could be prevented.

According to a new report by the George Institute for Global Health, Nigeria’s prompt enforcement of the trans-fat ban could prevent approximately 10,000 heart disease-related deaths and reduce healthcare costs by $90 million, equivalent to ₦12 billion within the next ten years. This could ultimately save the population a total of $520 million over their lifetime. A recent study by BMJ Global Health also revealed that it is crucial to implement and enforce policies aimed at decreasing trans-fat levels in the food industry of Nigeria. In 2023, Nigeria took a significant step by implementing a strict trans-fat elimination policy in 2023, making it the second African country to do so after South Africa.

Efforts are currently directed towards enforcing regulations that aim to limit industrially produced trans fats to under two percent of total fats in all food items, fats, and oils. An analysis using a cost-effectiveness model showed that the implementation of these regulations could potentially prevent or postpone around 67,000 instances of heart disease within the first decade. This would result in preventing a large number of deaths and cases of heart disease throughout the entire lifetime of the population, totalling 260,000 deaths and 480,000 heart disease cases.

Industrial trans fats present a major health threat.

Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute, Dr. Matti Marklund, highlighted the significant life-saving advantages of the policy, even with lower trans-fat consumption levels compared to other areas. Dr. Marklund’s findings suggest that Nigeria’s trans-fat regulations have the potential to prevent thousands of deaths in a short period. Most importantly, it was discovered that the policy is financially beneficial, leading to healthcare cost savings of around $90 million (₦12 billion) in the initial ten years and a remarkable $520 million (₦185 billion) over the course of the population’s lifetime.

The policy may come with a hefty price tag of $17 million (₦6.2 billion) in the initial decade and $26 million (₦9.4 billion) over the lifetime of the population, but it proves to be a worthwhile investment, as every dollar spent by the government results in $66 in healthcare savings. Industrial trans fats, which are created through the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils, present a major health threat, especially in relation to heart disease. Nevertheless, it is possible to substitute them with more nutritious options while still maintaining the same level of food quality.

Only 53 nations have put into effect optimal trans-fat policies.

There are around 500,000 premature deaths caused by heart disease every year due to industrial trans fats on a global scale. These deaths are mostly seen in low- and middle-income countries. Surprisingly, only 53 nations have put into effect optimal trans-fat policies, leaving more than half of the world’s population at risk for these health dangers. Dike Ojji, head of the Cardiovascular Research Unit at the University of Abuja and a senior author of the study, emphasized the need for immediate governmental interventions to address the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular disease across Africa.

He was optimistic that Nigeria’s forward-thinking strategy would serve as a model for other African countries to implement comparable measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) views the removal of industrial trans fats as a vital step in combating noncommunicable illnesses such as heart disease. The most effective policies for reducing trans-fat intake include implementing a maximum limit of 2g of trans-fat per 100g of total fat in food products and prohibiting the production and utilization of partially hydrogenated oils. In a recent update, the World Health Organization shifted its focus to achieving the complete eradication of industrial trans fats worldwide by 2025.

Related Article: 5 billion people at risk of trans fat menace

Eliminating trans fats is not only possible from an economic, political, and technical standpoint, but also a life-saving measure that comes with minimal cost to both governments and consumers. Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, stated that trans fats are both harmful and unnecessary, and their removal is generally not missed. While progress is being made in the fight against trans fats, countries lacking regulations are vulnerable to becoming destinations for trans fats products. It is essential for both governments and the food industry to prevent such occurrences.

Related Link

WHO: Website

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