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Trans fat responsible for 500,000 premature deaths – WHO 

The World Health Organisation has said that trans fat is responsible for the premature death of 500,000 people from coronary heart disease.

According to a new status report by WHO, five billion people globally remain unprotected from harmful trans-fat thus increasing their risk of heart disease and death.

Industrially produced trans-fat (also called industrially produced trans-fatty acids) is commonly found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils, and spreads, the world’s health agency explained.

Although only 43 countries have passed the best-practice policies, with Nigeria expected to be the second in Africa to do so, the WHO has, however also announced it will not meet the elimination target of trans fat by 2023

Coronary heart disease is damage or disease in the heart’s major blood vessels. This is usually caused by the build-up of plaque which causes the coronary arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the heart.

The symptoms of coronary artery disease can range from no symptoms to chest pain, to a heart attack, experts explain.

The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus said eliminating trans-fat is cost-effective and has enormous benefits for health.

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus

He said, “trans-fat is a toxic chemical that kills, and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all.”

The report partly states that “currently, nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans-fat intake do not have a best-practice policy. They are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea.

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“Best practices in trans-fat elimination policies follow specific criteria established by WHO and limit industrially produced trans-fat in all settings.

“There are two best-practice policy alternatives: 1) mandatory national limit of 2 grams of industrially produced trans-fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods; and 2) mandatory national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods.

“Progress in eliminating trans-fat is at risk of stalling, and trans-fat continues to kill people.” 

Dr. Tom Frieden, President/CEO of Resolve to Save Lives says, “Every government can stop these preventable deaths by passing a best-practice policy now. The days of trans fat killing people are numbered — but governments must act to end this preventable tragedy.”

“While most trans-fat elimination policies to date have been implemented in higher-income countries (largely in the Americas and in Europe), an increasing number of middle-income countries are implementing or adopting these policies, including Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, the Philippines and Ukraine. 

“Best-practice policies are also being considered in Mexico, Nigeria and Sri Lanka in 2023. If passed, Nigeria would be the second and most populous country in Africa to put a best-practice trans-fat elimination policy in place. No low-income countries have yet adopted a best-practice policy to eliminate trans-fat.”

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