UK Doctors Say Banning Trans Fats Would Save Lives

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Two doctors in the UK are collaborating with public health specialists to urge the ban of trans fats in all foods by next year. Doing so, they claim, would prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths and would be a simple way to protect the public and save lives.

Trans fatty acid are chemically manufactured solid fats, created by a process called hydrogenation, that are present in foods such as margarines, biscuits, snacks, bakery products, and in fried and fast food. They have been shown to increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the blood and reduce the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.

The authors, Dariush Mozzaffarian and Meir J Stamper, write in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that reducing the consumption of trans fat by even 1% of total energy intake could potentially prevent 11,000 heart attacks and 7.000 deaths annually in England alone.

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The presence of trans fatty acids may be particularly dangerous for women. A recent study published in the American Heart Journal, found that women who have diagnosed heart disease, and who eat the most trans fats (at least 2.5% of their daily caloric intake) are three times as likely to suffer a sudden cardiac death as women who consume less than 1% TFA’s.

Steve George, vice-president UK Faculty of Public Health, who recently called for a ban on trans fats, said, “Trans fats aren’t like products such as cigarettes or alcohol – no one goes out to buy trans fats. They are in there because the increase manufacturer’s profits, not because the improve taste or are desirable in any way.”

The Food Standards Agency has disagreed, saying that an average Brit consumes less than 1% of trans fat, half of the 2% that is considered a dangerous level.

Denmark and Switzerland are two European countries that have eliminated trans fats without reducing food availability, taste, or affordability. In the US, New York City has done the same. Scottish campaigners so far has failed to persuade parliament to back a trans fat ban.

Australia is another country looking to decrease the amount of trans fats in the Aussie diet, as it is related to at least 6,000 deaths each year. A national forum was held March 29th in Sydney to investigate improvement to food labeling to warn consumers there of the presence of TFA’s. Under current Australian rules, processed foods containing trans fats are rarely identified.

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