Artificial Trans Fats Could Essentially Be Extinct By 2023

Artificial Trans Fats Could Essentially Be Extinct By 2023

World Health Organization today released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Heart disease - the leading cause of death worldwide- accounts for 610,000 deaths, or a quarter of all deaths, in the US every year, according to the government.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils. Trans fats do ensure a longer shelf life for baked goods, fried foods and other snack products, but experts say that it would not affect taste or costs to swap trans fats for healthier alternatives.

"This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats", Francesco Branca, MD, PhD, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, told CNN.

The United Nations agency has in the past pushed to exterminate infectious diseases, but now it's aiming to erase a hazard linked to chronic illness.

Eliminating a big chunk of those deaths can be accomplished in an easier way: by banning trans fats (or trans fatty acids).

If people stop eating products made with trans fats, more than 17 million lives could be saved over the next 25 years.

The thing is, other multinational food companies and even entire countries have cut them out completely.

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The International Food and Beverage Alliance - a Geneva group representing food companies including Kellogg Co., General Mills Inc., McDonald's Corp. and Unilever NV - said its members have removed industrially produced trans fat from 98.8% of their global product portfolios.

Trans fat can be found in foods such as donuts, cakes, cookies and deep-fried foods. In 2003, Denmark was the first country to legislate against their use; consumers hardly seemed to notice, and Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, and Iceland followed suit. 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. Also, all food products that are sold in the United States are not allowed to have industrially produced trans fats.

Trans fats are finding their way onto too many plates, and they need to be eliminated - ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease have become first and second causes of premature mortality, and the majority of these cases occur in low and middle-income countries.

Several countries have already imposed limits on trans fats in packaged foods, with Denmark showing a decrease in cardiovascular deaths, the World Health Organization said.

In the U.S., New York City in 2006 banned restaurants from serving food with trans fats.

By 2010, trans fat levels in the blood of middle-aged US adults dropped by almost 60 percent. FDA officials have not said how much progress has been made or how they will enforce their rule against food makers that don't comply.

Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policymakers, producers, suppliers, and the public.

Michael Stobbe is an Associated Press medical writer.

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