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Let’s eliminate transfats in food

Last year in May, World Health Organization released REPLACE, a step by step guide aimed at eliminating industry trans-fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023. Trans-fats are artificially created fats where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to make it solid like shortening and margarine. They became popular in the food industry because they were inexpensive, gave food a longer shelf-life and mad it tastier. They have therefore been used largely to make deep-fried fast foods, baked goods, crackers, chips, and in some coffee creamers.

Over the years however, trans-fats have been shown to negatively impact cardiovascular health. From studies, even small amounts of trans-fats increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases good cholesterol (HDL), raising the risk of heart attack and coronary heart diseases, stroke and type 2 diabetes. According to World Health Organization (WHO), trans-fats lead to an estimated 500000 deaths from cardiovascular diseases. This has led to the call to eliminate trans fatty acids.

Several high income countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and recently USA have already made positive strides in eliminating trans fats by banning its use in the food industry. This elimination has been shown to be beneficial since follow-up studies done in Denmark and New York states showed a reduction in mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases, compared to the period before the policy was introduced, and state counties without the restriction.

In developing countries, more than 75000 of global deaths from cardiovascular diseases occur in the low and middle income countries. But while all cannot be attributed to trans-fats, eliminating them can have a significant impact on the growing burden of cardiovascular diseases. This is particularly true because of the growth of the food industry, including street food vending in developing countries that is not regulated.

But while WHO gives the guidelines, its upto national and local governments to enforce these changes that will prevent premature deaths and chronic diseases.



Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour. And humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”