- Diets high in trans fat, hydrogenated oils increase heart disease risk by 21%, deaths by 28%
- 1,300 Nigerians died in 2010 due to unnecessary exposure to toxic chemical, researchers find
- Healthier alternatives include natural unsaturated liquid vegetable oils- olive, canola, corn, soy
- WHO, others plan to eliminate industrially produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply
Beware! Using hydrogenated oils or rather trans fat to prepare foods and regular consumption of baked, fried and packaged foods raises the risk of an early death.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said diets high in trans fat increase heart disease risk by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent. It estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease and approximately 1,300 deaths were attributable to high trans fat intake in Nigeria in 2010.
However, the WHO, said 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.
Industrially produced trans fat is a harmful chemical found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) that may be used in baked, fried and packaged foods. Industrially produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats.
Research has proved the direct connection of trans fatty acids with cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, shortening of pregnancy period, risks of preeclampsia, disorders of nervous system and vision in infants, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity and allergy.
Scientists are unanimous that in light of these new findings trans fatty intake should be zero and new technology of hydrogenation of oils is to be developed which produce zero trans fatty acids at the same time preserve the desirable properties contributed by trans fatty acids to the hydrogenated oils.
But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.
One of the healthiest alternatives to using saturated or partially hydrogenated fats is the use of natural unsaturated liquid vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn, or soy oils.
There are two main sources for trans fats: natural sources (in the dairy products and meat of ruminants such as cows and sheep) and industrially produced sources (partially hydrogenated oils).
Partially hydrogenated oils were first introduced into the food supply in the early 20th century as a replacement for butter, and became more popular in the 1950s through 1970s with the discovery of the negative health impacts of saturated fatty acids. Partially hydrogenated oils are primarily used for deep- frying and as an ingredient in baked goods; they can be replaced in both.
The WHO on May 14, 2019 released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.
The WHO recommends that the total trans fat intake be limited to less than one per cent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet. Trans fats increases levels of Low Density Lipo-protein (LDL)- bad cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of High Density Lipo-protein (HDL)- good cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile.
Meanwhile, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) has urged the Nigerian government to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the country’s food supply, as a newly released report by the WHO suggests that thousands of Nigerians die each year due to unnecessary exposure to the toxic chemical.
The WHO concluded in its first-ever annual report on global trans fat elimination, released last week, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland: “Nigeria does not follow international best practice when it comes to regulating the amount of harmful and unnecessary trans fat in our food.”
WHO has endorsed two policies to curb trans fat consumption: banning the use of PHOs, and limiting the amount of trans fat to two per cent of total fat in all foods.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has authority over the issue, and last year put planned regulatory updates on hold to conduct further analysis on trans fat. NAFDAC and the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) are participating in a technical working group chaired by the Nigerian Medical Association that has been tasked by the Federal Ministry of Health to review policy options.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply.
“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.”
An Advocacy Coordinator with GHAI in Nigeria, Nkiru Nwadioke, said: “Nigeria must lead in the global campaign to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from our food supply.
“To save precious lives, the Nigerian government must take proactive steps now to limit trans fat content in our foods, or ban the harmful oils that contain this toxic chemical.”
Industrially produced trans fat can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives, documented evidence from other countries shows. Six countries restricted use of the toxic chemical just last year, while another 25 (including the European Union) adopted policies that will come into effect over the next two years.
With its report, entitled “Countdown to 2023,” WHO released a set of modules to help countries implement REPLACE, the action package launched a year ago to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the food supply by 2023.
REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially produced trans fats from the food supply:
*Review dietary sources of industrially produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
*Promote the replacement of industrially produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
*Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially produced trans fats.
*Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
*Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.
*Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.
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.
In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, Dr. Tom Frieden, said: “New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead. Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.”
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.