World Health Organization calls for a global ban on trans fats

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber

They believe that manufacturers used trans fats such as margarine and hydrogenated oils because the products will be able to last longer.

Trans fats, often in the form of partially hydrogenated food oils, played a leading role in the post-World War II popularization of packaged foods in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"Although trans fats extend the shelf life of food, we think the priority should be the length and health of human life".

The United States' FDA determined that trans fats were "not generally recognized as safe" in November 2013.

Under the Obama administration, the FDA finally followed suit nationwide in 2015, with that ban going into full effect next month. A misconception that the products were healthier than butter or lard led to surge in popularity that peaked in 1950s, but studies gradually revealed a link between trans fats and unsafe cholesterol levels in the blood.

At the World Health Organization news conference Monday, a representative from a leading food industry trade group said companies are working to reduce trans fats in their products.

Multinational food producers that have switched away from trans fat products can help local producers make the move to healthier oils, according to the WHO.

WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, Michael R. Bloomberg, a three-term mayor of New York city and the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: "Banning trans fats in New York City helped reduce the number of heart attacks without changing the taste or cost of food, and eliminating their use around the world can save millions of lives".

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The feeling of urgency was echoed by scientists and medics all around the world. "Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there's no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed". Consuming even a small amount increases LDL - that's the bad kind of cholesterol - in your body while reducing the good one (HDL). This is why a ban on trans fats can make a very big difference for worldwide health.

The World Health Organization released a plan Monday that aims to eliminate trans-fatty acids from the world's food supply within the next five years.

"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", he said.

As it so often happens, "REPLACE" is an acronym.

The REPLACE plan urges governments to assess and monitor trans fats consumption, promote substitution with healthier products, and establish laws or regulations to stamp out trans fats, and raise awareness of the risks of their use.

The problem of trans fats is often most pronounced in low- and middle-income countries where there are few controls in place on products. Meanwhile, the saturated fat-free substances that were created by the food industry by solidifying vegetable oils have now been proven to be highly problematic.

"Trans fats are a harmful compound that can be removed easily without major cost and without any impact on the quality of the foods", Branca said.

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