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14 May 2018, 09:10 | Silvia Roy
The World Health Organization has released a plan to help countries wipe out trans fats from the global food supply in the next five years. The idea is fairly simple: Governments should require that artificial trans fats - like margarine and ghee - to be replaced with healthier fats and oils. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said eliminating trans fats from human diets would be "a global win in the fight against".
The WHO initiative, called REPLACE, provides guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods.
REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change. The initiative, dubbed REPLACE, is aimed at saving the more than 500,000 lives a year that the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Health Organization estimates are lost to cardiovascular disease caused by Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods.
Fear not, the move towards eliminating trans fats doesn't mean you'll have to kiss your precious Oreos goodbye.
They're made by processing liquid oils to make them solid or semi-solid and to make them stay fresh longer than liquid fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.
According to WHO, Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.
In 2015, the FDA took steps to finish the job of eliminating trans fats, calling for manufacturers to stop selling trans fatty foods by June 18, 2018 - a deadline that arrives next month.
"The removal of trans fats from the food supply as an additive counts as one of the major public health victories of the last decade", said Laura MacCleery, policy director for the Washington, D.C. -based advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Moreover, it's possible to eliminate trans fats without changing the flavor of food, so even if you haven't already been eating this way, you probably won't know the difference.
Enforce compliance of policies and regulations. "A comprehensive approach to tobacco control allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than nearly anyone thought possible - now, a similar approach to trans fat can help us make that kind of progress against cardiovascular disease, another of the world's leading causes of preventable death". "What we found in New York City was that industry wasn't really willing to fight us on this", Frieden said, Howard writes, because artificial trans fats are "easily replaceable".
Around one per cent of our daily calories come from these compounds - below the government's two per cent guideline - but Prof Capewell said that they are more likely to be consumed by poorer people. Trans fats increases levels of LDL-cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of HDL-cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile.
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