Why countries must eliminate trans-fatty acid from food – WHO

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured in Geneva [Photo Credit: VOANEWS]

The World Health Organisation has called for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

In a press statement on Monday, the health agency released a step by step guide called ‘REPLACE’ for governments to follow in achieving the aim.

Tran-fatty acids are industrially-produced trans-fats contained in hardened vegetable fats such as margarine and ghee. It is often present in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods.

There are two main sources of trans-fats: natural sources (in the dairy products and meat of ruminants such as cows and sheep) and industrially-produced sources (partially hydrogenated oils).

WHO said eliminating the fat is key to protecting health and saving lives. It estimated that every year, trans-fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular diseases.

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WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said governments should use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acid from food supply.

“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods? The world is now embarking on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, using it as a driver for improved access to healthy food and nutrition. WHO is also using this milestone to work with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats.

“Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans-fat, and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease,” he said.

According to WHO, REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans-fats from food supply. This includes the review of dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.

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The agency also called on the government to put in place legislation or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fats.

According to the statement, several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

“Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world,” he said.

WHO recommends that trans-fat intake be limited to less than one percent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet.

Trans-fats increase levels of LDL-cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of HDL-cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile.

According to WHO, diets high in trans-fat increase heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent. Replacing trans-fats with unsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk of heart disease, in part, by ameliorating the negative effects of trans fats on blood lipids. In addition, there are indications that trans-fat may increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.

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