5 billion people globally exposed to toxic trans fat linked to heart disease: WHO

Diets high in trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 27 January 2023

The number of people exposed to ‘trans fat’ globally has reached five billion according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) which increases chances of heart disease and death risk.

Trans fat, or trans-fatty acids, are unsaturated fatty acids that come from either natural (like cows and sheep) or industrial sources. Industrial processes add hydrogen to vegetable oil converting the liquid into a solid, resulting in “partially hydrogenated” oil (PHO).

In 2018, WHO had advocated policies for the global eradication of industrially generated trans fat by 2023. Today, 43 countries have put best-practice regulations against trans fat in food, covering 2.8 billion people worldwide.

In 2022, three countries implemented best-practice policies. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) capped the amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats from five per cent in 2020 to three per cent in 2021 and two per cent in 2022 through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards Regulations.

But even now, five billion people are exposed to the devastating health effects of trans fats, making the 2023 target unattainable. They raise the level of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, sometimes called “bad” cholesterol.

Diets high in trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent. Industrially produced trans fat is usually found in packaged foods, baked items, cooking oils and spreads.

Trans fats cause 500,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease annually. Nine countries of the 16 nations with the highest estimated percentage of coronary heart disease fatalities attributed to trans fat consumption do not have a best-practices strategy.

The strategy includes: Mandatory national limit of two grams of industrially produced trans-fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods; Mandatory national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient in all foods.

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