The World Health Organization (WHO), on 14 May 2018, has released a plan to eliminate industrially produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply.
Trans-fatty acids (TFA) are fatty acids with at least one double carbon–carbon bond in the trans configuration.
Industrially-produced TFA are the predominant source of dietary TFA in many populations, particularly in countries which have not taken action to remove industrially produced TFA from the food supply.
Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they are cheaper; and have a longer shelf life than other fats. However, healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.
TFA increases levels of LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol and decreases levels of HDL (healthy) cholesterol. Replacement of TFA with unsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk of CHD, in part, by reducing the negative effects of TFA on blood lipids. In addition, there are indications that TFA may increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.
Consumption of TFA is strongly associated with increased risk of CHD and related mortality.
WHO recommends that total TFA intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day in a 2,000-calorie diet.
Globally, increased TFA intake is estimated to be responsible for more than 500,000 deaths per year.
The Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that global TFA intake ranges from 0.2 to 6.5% of total energy intake.
Diets high in trans fat increase heart disease risk by 21% and deaths by 28%.
There is limited availability of reliable and current data on the TFA content of foods. This adds to the challenge of assessing and monitoring changes in the TFA content of the food supply as well as changes in estimated population intake. The few existing studies show high levels of TFA in both street food and packaged food.
REPLACE Action Package:
The REPLACE action package serves as a road-map for countries to implement actions towards elimination of industrially-produced TFA. The following six strategic action areas ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced
TFA from the food supply. These strategic action areas are not necessarily listed in a step-wise order, but rather provide recommended actions to achieve the elimination of industrially produced TFA:
- REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
- Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
- Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
- Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
- Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.
- Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.
Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.
Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.
Link to WHO news release:
Link to WHO REPLACE action package (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO video on the new initiative:
Link to WHO page on Trans Fatty Acids:
Link to WHO curated list of policies to replace trans fat: