World Health Organization leads push to universally ban trans fats

World Health Organization leads push to universally ban trans fats

Officials think it can be done in five years because the work is well underway in many countries.

The World Health Organization announced its plan to eliminate artificial trans-fat from the global food supply by 2023.

Heart disease kills more people around the world than anything else. It can be hard to change some of the behaviors that lead to those deaths - but that doesn't stop researchers from trying to get people to exercise and eat more vegetables.

In the U.S., New York City in 2006 banned restaurants from serving food with trans fats.

"A comprehensive approach to tobacco control allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than nearly anyone thought possible", he said, "Now, a similar approach to trans fat can help us make that kind of progress against cardiovascular disease, another of the world's leading causes of preventable death".

Now the WHO and governments around the world are cracking down.

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".

Due to its longer shelf life and other characteristics, hydrogenated oil is commonly added to baked goods, snacks, deep-fried fare and cold pastries, and dough, like frozen pizza and cinnamon rolls. Trans fats still hide in some foods that millions of people eat every day, like coffee creamer, baking products like margarine and shortening, pre-made frosting, some potato chips, pre-made dough and fried food. Partially hydrogenated oils were first introduced into the food supply in the early 20th century as a replacement for butter.

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Trans fats increase the 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.

Researchers starting suggesting these fats might be risky based on signs of their accumulation in autopsies in the late 1950s.

The intake of TFA results in more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, annually. In 2003, a Danish law that limited the amounts of these fats in food was passed.

New York City quickly followed Denmark's lead.

The first trans fatty food to hit the US market was Crisco shortening, which went on sale in 1911.

"The reality is that global food companies have done an fantastic job reducing trans fats in rich countries but they have largely ignored Asia and Africa", said Prof Barry Popkin, a nutrition lecturer at the Chapel Hill campus University of North Carolina.

The WHO's new policy can't actually ban trans fats in these countries.

It's possible that within five years, a unsafe substance that increases death rates won't be in use anymore.

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