According to a report released by the World Health Organization, five billion people are exposed to trans fats, which increase their risk of heart disease and death.
In 2018, the International Health Organization advocated for some best practice policies to eradicate industrially produced trans fats by 2023. Since its conception, coverage of these policies increased by about six times.
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At this point, 43 countries have put best-practice regulations against trans fat in food, covering 2.8 billion people worldwide, according to the Countdown to 2023 – WHO report on global trans fat elimination, released January 23, 2023.
This means that despite the significant progress made, five billion people are still exposed to the devastating health effects of trans fatty acids, rendering the 2023 goal unattainable.
Trans fats produced industrially are found in baked goods, packaged foods, cooking oils, and spreads. Trans fat consumption is responsible for up to 500,000 deaths early from coronary disease each year.
Trans fats increase the bad LDL cholesterol, a biomarker for cardiovascular disease. Diets high in trans-fat can increase heart disease risk by 21% and death by 28%.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated that trans fats have no known benefits but are associated with enormous health risks that can burden the health system.
“In contrast, removing trans fats is cost-effective and offers enormous health benefits. Trans fat is a deadly chemical and shouldn’t be in any food. Ghebreyesus said, “It’s time to eliminate it for good.”
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Nine countries — Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and the Republic of Korea — of the 16 nations with the highest estimated percentage of coronary heart disease fatalities attributed to trans fat consumption do not currently have a best-practices strategy.
The best practices for removing trans fats are to minimize the industrially produced trans fats in all contexts and adhere strictly to WHO standards.
Two best practices are A) a national mandatory limit of 2 grams of industrially-produced trans fat per 100 g of total fat for all foods, and B) a national mandatory ban on the use or production of partially hydrogenated oil (a major source of trans fats) in any food.
Trans fats continue to kill people, said Dr Tom Frieden. He is the president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives.
While most trans fat regulations have been implemented by higher-income countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Ukraine, these regulations are now being adopted by many middle-income nations.