World Health Organization calls for trans fats to be eliminated within five years

Grant Boone
May 16, 2018

Trans fats are popular with manufacturers of fried, baked and snack foods because they have a long shelf life, but they are bad for consumers, increasing heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent, a World Health Organization statement said.

WHO aims to eliminate the use of trans fats world wide by 2023 and released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply. For the record, Denmark had set an example for other nations by becoming the first to take an initiative of restricting the use of industrially manufactured trans-fats in food supply.

Dr M.S.S. Mukharjee, senior cardiologist, said, "Trans fats are produced when oil is repeatedly heated".

In the Indian context, the World Health Organization has termed ghee as a trans fat laden food, despite mounting evidence on the "good fat" in it. "Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods". But healthier alternatives, which are generally more expensive, can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

Trans fats should be less than 1 per cent of the total count (less than 2.2gm per day in a 2,000 calorie); both fats must be replaced by polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. Trans fatty foods became increasingly popular beginning in the 1950s, partly because experts at the time thought they were healthier than cooking with butter or lard. It's done primarily to extend the shelf-life of processed foods such as snacks and baked goods.

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As per sources, numerous developed nations have already removed trans-fats from the food supply, imposing legal restrictions on packaged food.

"Trans fats increases levels of L.D.L. -cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of H.D.L. -cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile", according to WHO.

It increases the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent and death by 28 per cent.

REPLACE urges countries to assess and monitor trans fats consumption, establish laws to stamp out trans fats and raises awareness of their risk. The country has witnessed improvement in the citizens' health and a reduction in deaths by way of cardiovascular disease.

Dr Ravi Shankar, senior gastroenterologist, said, "Trans fats are mainly found in fast foods and if they are consumed in higher quantities, they lead to premature death and accumulation of fats in one's blood vessels which can even lead to cerebral palsy".

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