We've known that trans fats have been killing people for decades — now governments are finally cracking down
The use of trans fats leads to about 500,000 cardiovascular disease deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These products are added to fried foods, baked goods, and snack products, and cause levels of bad cholesterol in blood to spike.
Now the WHO and governments around the world are cracking down. On Monday, the WHO announced a plan calling for governments to ban industrially-produced trans fats within five years.
"Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there's no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed," Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, said in the WHO announcement statement.
Artificial trans fats were first developed in the early 20th century, when industrial producers realized they could replace butter with partially hydrogenated oils, which have a long shelf life.
But replacing saturated fats with partially hydrogenated oils was a bad idea. These products increase the levels of bad LDL-cholesterol (a sign of increased cardiovascular disease risk) and lower levels of good HDL-cholesterol. Overall, diets high in these fats increase heart disease risk rates by 21% and death rates by 28%, and they're also associated with an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are still commonly sold in countries throughout South Asia and Africa, where weaker regulations and stronger pressure by food producers have kept partially hydrogenated oils in circulation.
The WHO's new policy can't actually ban trans fats in these countries. But the hope is that the guidelines will encourage governments to enact these bans.
|We've known that a dangerous type of fat has been killing people for decades — now governments are finally cracking down
Banning trans fats (or trans fatty acids) would eliminate a good proportion of cardiovascular disease deaths. The use of these products leads to about 500,000 c