News: WHO Calls for Worldwide Trans Fat Ban by 2023

News: WHO Calls for Worldwide Trans Fat Ban by 2023

An estimated 500,000 preventable deaths are linked to these fats each year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a blueprint for eliminating artificial trans fats from food across the globe. The plan, called REPLACE, provides six actions that the organization is recommending governments adopt to remove the use of these industrially-produced fats.

These fatty acids can raise bad LDL-cholesterol levels and lower the amount of protective HDL-cholesterol in your blood. A diet high in these substances can increase your risk for inflammation, heart disease and stroke. The WHO believes their program will save lives—they estimated 500,000 annual cardiovascular-related deaths are linked to trans fat consumption.

The history behind trans fats
The WHO recognizes several high-income countries, including Denmark and the United States, have already effectively eliminated artificial trans fats by restricting the quantity in packaged goods. Over a decade ago, New York City became the first in the US to ban the processed fat in restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed suit in 2015, recommending food manufacturers nationwide remove partially hydrogenated oils in foods by mid-2018, although they can still grant companies special permission when it is impossible to find a suitable replacement.

After the success of regulations in many North American and European countries, the WHO is now focused on controlling trans fat use and production in low- and middle-income countries.

Naturally produced trans fats can be found in small quantities in beef and dairy products but are not thought to have any harmful effects on the body. The concerning trans fats are those that are artificially produced. The main source of artificial trans fat is partially hydrogenated oils, which are found in fried foods, prepackaged snacks, baked goods, margarine and salty bites like chips and popcorn. Often times, trans fat are used to lengthen the shelf life of the product, but other fats can be used without altering a product's taste or cost. In lower income countries, the use of trans fats are still abundant in restaurants and street carts. They also have little regulation about labeling trans fat use in packaged goods.

The WHO’s new plan
To help rid the rest of the world of trans fat, the WHO is proposing a guide which includes the following sex steps:

  • Review and identify sources of artificial trans fats
  • Promote substitution of trans fats with healthier fats and oils
  • Legislate actions to eliminate trans fats
  • Assess and track trans fat content in foods and consumption
  • Create awareness of negative health impact among policy makers, manufacturers, suppliers and the general public
  • Enforce regulations

The US has almost eradicated artificial trans fat use and likely will be minimally affected by this new strategy, but many other countries can benefit from education and increased regulation. Global trans-fatty acid elimination has been recognized by the WHO as one of their biggest priorities between 2019 and 2023.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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