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Sunday February 05, 2023

Trans fat puts billions at risk of early death: WHO

Products with industrially produced trans fats, like margarine, were created by chemists at start of 20th century

By Web Desk
January 25, 2023
Close-up shot of a person holding a wooden plate with sliced margarine.— Pexels
Close-up shot of a person holding a wooden plate with sliced margarine.— Pexels

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) assessment revealed that trans fat puts millions of individuals at an elevated risk of developing heart disease and dying from it.

Governments must do more to outlaw industrially manufactured fats, which block arteries and are frequently present in cooking oils, spreads, packaged foods, and baked goods, according to the 2022 WHO report on global trans fat eradication.

Products with industrially produced trans fats, like margarine, were created by chemists at the start of the 20th century and quickly gained popularity as less expensive substitutes for animal fats like butter. Additionally, they were routinely utilised in industrial-scale food production up until the 1990s and were popularly thought to be healthier. But that was later proven false.

"Trans fat has no known benefit, and huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems," WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news release. 

"By contrast, eliminating trans fat is cost-effective and has enormous benefits for health. Put simply, trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all."

The WHO estimates that the use of trans fats worldwide causes up to 500,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease each year. In arteries, harmful cholesterol can accumulate due to artificial trans fat, according to research, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Some meat and dairy products include natural trans fat, which is not thought to be harmful.

Only 43 countries, according to the WHO, have eliminated industrially manufactured trans fat, commonly known as trans fatty acids, and Canada is one of them. These 43 nations, which include Thailand, India, Brazil, the United States, and many parts of Europe, have a combined population of 2.8 billion. Best practices, according to the WHO, call for either outlawing partly hydrogenated oils as a food ingredient or capping the amount of industrially manufactured trans fats in all foods at two grammes per 100 grammes of fat.

The majority of industrially produced trans fats in food come from partially hydrogenated oils, which were outlawed in Canada in September 2018 along with Latvia, Slovenia, and the United States. 

Denmark was the first nation to do so in 2004, followed by Austria in 2009, Iceland, and South Africa in 2011, Chile and Norway in 2014, and Hungary and Norway in 2015. 

None of these policies, however, have been implemented in lower-income nations, despite the fact that they are widespread in Europe and the Americas' wealthier nations. Ukraine, Mexico, Bangladesh, and the Philippines are among the countries that are anticipated to shortly impose trans fat regulations. According to the WHO, at least nine nations, including Australia, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and South Korea, need to do more to address the problem of coronary heart disease mortality linked to trans fats.