The health impact of dietary fats is a highly debated subject, but there is one thing experts seem to agree upon: the harmful effects of artificial trans fat.
Research provides strong evidence that consumption of artificial trans fat increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, as this fat has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol, decrease HDL cholesterol and promote inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. In fact, risk of death from cardiovascular disease may be increased as much as 30 percent, compared to lower trans fat intakes. Further, it is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths could be prevented yearly if Americans avoided artificial trans fat. From a global perspective, 540,000 deaths annually are due to artificial trans fats.
Trans fats have also been shown to heighten the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and perhaps central obesity and weight gain. Not surprisingly, reducing or eliminating these fats from the food supply has been shown to produce positive health impacts.
Current Recommendations and Consumption
Because the evidence against trans fat is largely undisputed, recommendations suggest keeping intake below 1 percent of calories (2.2 g/day for a 2,000-calorie diet) or as low as possible.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2010 data shows average global consumption of trans fat to be 1.4 percent of total energy, ranging from 0.2 to 6.5 percent of total energy across countries (0.13 to 4.3 g/day for a 2,000-calorie diet).
A recent review of global trans fat intake found 13 countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom) meet this recommendation. While the U.S. and Canada did not make the list, each country’s ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major source of artificial trans fat in food, should help reduce intakes.
Call for Global Elimination
In May 2018, WHO launched REPLACE, an action package to eliminate artificial trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. The six-step program includes promoting the replacement of artificial trans fat with unsaturated fats, implementing regulations to limit artificial trans fats in foods, establishing monitoring systems and increasing awareness among policymakers, producers, suppliers and the public.
WHO recommends governments prioritize the elimination of trans fat with healthier fats and oils because it is a low-cost method to save lives. Additionally, the organization emphasizes mandatory legislation, rather than voluntary approach, noting this has proven to be much more effective method for several countries.
Current Global Regulations
Some countries have already mandated limits to artificial trans fat in foods. Denmark was the first country to do so in 2003, limiting artificial trans fat in all food to 2 percent of fats and oils. The U.S., Canada and Brazil have all passed regulations to ban PHOs. According to WHO, 23 countries will have mandated limits or banned artificial trans fat by the end of 2018. Most of these countries follow the Denmark model of placing limits on trans fat content in fats and oils; these ranges vary from 2 percent to 5 percent.
Come back to the Good Fats blog for more regulatory updates, and for more information about the health impacts of various fatty acids, check out our FREE continuing education module or visit our health section.
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