For over a decade now, health organizations and health advocates have been discussing the negative impact of trans fat in the human diet. With the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, proponents of banishing trans fat have urged greater awareness and commitment to getting rid of trans fat in manufactured foods.
This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a public notice sharing its goal of banishing trans fat from the global food supply, calling on governments to use their newly declared initiative called REPLACE.
What Is Trans Fat?
Trans fat, which is short for trans fatty acids, can be found in both natural and unnatural sources of food. The difference is that when trans fat is found in industrially-produced foods, it’s often far greater in amount and harmful in its effect on the body.
Foods like margarine and processed cooking oils, as well as manufactured snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods, typically contain harmful trans fat. Manufacturers tend to use trans fat over other fats because it helps preserve the food longer
Trans fat, however, is believed to lead to atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque around the artery walls due to fats, cholesterol, and other substances. This, in turn, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Trans Fat to Be Banished
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that trans fat intake causes more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease each year. They have noted that countries like Denmark, which have restricted industrially-produced trans fats, have experienced a decline in food products containing trans fat and, as a result, a decline in cardiovascular deaths.
WHO believes that their action package, called REPLACE, can be an effective solution for other countries around the world to restrict trans fat and eventually eliminate it from the global food supply.
A government adopting the REPLACE plan would follow it as such:
- Review the current sources of industrially-produced trans fats and assess where restrictions need to be made.
- Promote the replacement of these harmful trans fats with other healthy oils and fats.
- Legislate or create regulations to eliminate the sources of trans fats.
- Assess and monitor trans fats in the country’s food supply and evaluate its effect on the country’s population.
- Create awareness of the harmful effect of trans fats among both the public and government officials/policymakers.
- Enforce compliance with the policies and the regulations that are being made to restrict trans fats in the food supply.
WHO argues that not only can trans fat be eliminated from the global food supply, but it can be done so without causing any change in the taste or cost of the foods that trans fats are currently found in.
While developed, higher-income countries will be able to adopt the REPLACE program with fewer obstacles, WHO is more concerned about making sure low- or middle-income countries can successfully carry out the initiative. Monitoring and enforcing restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats tend to be a more difficult process in the countries with fewer resources.
They argue that if the commitment to better health for ourselves and our children is going to be equally distributed, it’s imperative that we ensure the elimination of trans fat occurs in countries all around the world, not just a select handful.