The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a global ban on trans fats to be implemented within the next five years.
According to the American Heart Association, industrially-produced trans fats (also known as trans fatty acids) are produced by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solidify. Consuming this type of fat raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels. The ingredient is linked to increasing one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
To combat the negative health impact of trans fats, the agency released REPLACE (Review, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create, Enforce), a six-step strategy guide geared to removing industrially-produced trans fatty acids from the global food supply.
“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,” WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a press release. “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.”
In 2004, Denmark became the world’s first country to enforce restrictions on industrially-produced trans fat in its national food chain. WHO reports Denmark’s historic move sparked a significant reduction of trans fats-inclusive food products, and the number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths saw a dramatic decline.
“New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead,” noted Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a health-focused NGO working to save lives from epidemics, especially cardiovascular disease. “Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.”
“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient [trans fats] in their foods?” questioned Ghebreyesus. “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.”
WHO, an organization led by the United Nations is known for its efforts to mitigate infection-spread diseases. But for recent initiatives, it has shifted its focus to reducing the spread of chronic disease by calling for dietary restriction and actions to make the global food supply healthier.
Recently, the WHO recommended that adults and children reduce their intake of saturated fats found in meat, dairy, and eggs amid a cardiovascular disease epidemic. A plant-based diet can be low in saturated fats and is recommended by physicians as an effective method to lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Replacing animal fats with plant-based fats has also been suggested to reduce the risk of premature death.
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