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500,000 persons die every year of coronary heart disease caused by trans fat- WHO

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THE World Health Organisations says 11 out of 15 countries with the most coronary heart disease deaths due to trans fats are yet to take action to eliminate the substance in their countries.

The organisation noted that despite the progress more than 100 countries still need to take actions to remove these harmful substances from their food supplies that is estimated to cause around 500,000 deaths per year due to coronary heart disease.

The world health body in a statement released in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday as part of reports on the  2020 Global Week for Action on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) from September 7 to 13 noted that the 15 countries account for approximately two-thirds of the global deaths in connection with trans-fat intake while only four of the countries have implemented the WHO best practice policies.

“Fifteen countries account for approximately two-thirds of the worldwide deaths linked to trans fat intake,” it said

“Of these, four (Canada, Latvia, Slovenia, United States of America) have implemented WHO-recommended best-practice policies since 2017, either by setting mandatory limits for industrially produced trans fats to 2 per cent of oils and fats in all foods or banning partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).”

According to the WHO, the countries that are yet to take actions are Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea.

The WHO noted that there is an urgent need for the 11 countries to take action on policies to eliminate trans-fat.

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“In a time when the whole world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make every effort to protect people’s health. That must include taking all steps possible to prevent non-communicable diseases that can make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, and cause premature death,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.

Ghebreyesus further stated that the goal of the organisation to end trans-fat by 2023 must not be delayed.

However, WHO announced that two years into its effort to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply, 58 countries have so far introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from the harmful substance by the end of 2021.

Highlighting the encouraging trend in the battle against global trans-fat, WHO noted the new policy measures passed and/or introduced in the past year in Brazil, Turkey and Nigeria have met WHO’s criteria for best-practice policies.

Tom Frieden, the President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives said, “With the global economic downturn, more than ever, countries are looking for best buys in public health, making food trans fat-free, saves lives and saves money, and, by preventing heart attacks, reduces the burden on health care facilities.”

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 have a longer shelf life and are cheaper than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that do not affect taste or cost of food, the WHO said.

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WHO recommends that trans fat intake be limited to less than 1 per cent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet.

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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