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Laws protect more than 3 billion people from trans fats, but 500,000 still die each year

ByMicheal Johnson

Sep 10, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched an ambitious initiative two years ago that seeks eliminate trans fats from the global food supply of industrial production by 2023. From then to date, 58 countries have implemented legislation, thus protecting 3.2 billion people from these harmful substances by the end of 2021.

However, more than 100 nations still lack measures to eliminate those harmful substances, including some of those that register the highest number of deaths from coronary heart disease due to trans fats, indicates a new report from the health agency.

This lack of regulation causes the death of about 500,000 people annually, according to WHO calculations.

Regarding this, the Director General of the Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pointed out that at a time when the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, everything possible must be done to take care of people’s health .

“This includes taking all possible measures to prevent non-communicable diseases that can cause make people more susceptible to coronavirus and cause premature deaths. Our goal of eliminating trans fats by 2023 should not be delayed, “he said.

Two-thirds of deaths occur in 15 countries

Fifteen countries have nearly two-thirds of the world’s deaths linked to trans fat intake, of which four (Canada, Slovenia, United States and Latvia) have been applying since 2017 regulations that comply with the best practices recommended by the WHO, either establishing trans fats from industrial production mandatory limits of 2% on the oil and fat content of all foods or banning partially hydrogenated oils.

The remaining eleven countries (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea) still have urgent action pending.

In addition to saving lives, eliminating trans fats would save countries money to treat much of heart disease, the WHO noted.

The WHO noted that when countries make provisions, it is generally regulations based on best practices, ruling out less restrictive measures.

Rocío Franco / UN News

Obese children are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, asthma, breathing difficulties, muscle problems, heart dysfunctions, as well as psychological problems and social isolation.

Regional regulations

He added that more and more use is made of regional regulations that establish standards for several countries, one promising strategy to accelerate progress towards eliminating trans fats by 2023.

For example, in 2019, the European Union approved a regulation based on best practices, and the 35 countries of America unanimously approved a regional action plan to eliminate industrially produced trans fats by 2025. Together, these two regional initiatives can protect another 1 billion people in more than 50 countries who were not previously covered by regulations against these fats.

WHO warned that despite encouraging progress, significant disparities persist in regulatory coverage by region and income level of the countries. To date, most regulatory measures, including those passed in 2019 and 2020, have been adopted in high-income countries in the Americas and Europe. Best-practice policies have been adopted in seven upper-middle-income and 33 high-income countries; So far no low- or lower-middle-income country has followed suit.

What are trans fats?

Trans fats industrially produced are found in solidified vegetable fats, such as margarine, and are frequently present in snacks and baked and fried foods. They are often used by manufacturers because they keep longer and are cheaper than other fats, although there are healthier alternatives that do not affect the taste or cost of food.


WHO recommends that consumption of trans fat is limited to less than 1% of total caloric intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g / day on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

So that by 2023 trans fats industrial production have been discontinued, WHO recommends that countries:

  • Develop and implement policies based on best practices to establish mandatory limits of 2% on the oil and fat content of all foods for industrially produced trans fats or to prohibit partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Invest in mechanisms monitoring as a laboratory ability to measure and control trans fat contents in food.
  • Promote regional regulations or subregional in order to expand the benefits of trans fat policies.

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