World Health Organization calls for global elimination of trans fat by 2023

Learn why it’s time to cut out this harmful food additive

Goodbye. Adiós. Au revoir. Sayonara. No matter how you say it, this is what all countries may soon be saying to trans fats.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is on a mission to globally eliminate industrially produced trans fats from foods by 2023. They released a plan called REPLACE, which provides insight into how governments worldwide can ban arguably the worst offender of food additives.

What is trans fat?

Trans fat is short for trans-fatty acid. This type of fat comes from two places: It is contained in small amounts in some meat and dairy products. And it comes from an industrial process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil — called hydrogenated oil. This solid form of oil helps food last longer before it spoils.

Why is it so bad for you?

“Trans fat raises bad cholesterol (LDL), lowers good cholesterol (HDL) and causes plaque to form in the vessel walls,” said Amy Pierce, APRN, nurse practitioner with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute. “This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.”

WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than half a million deaths from heart disease. The elimination of trans fat globally is very feasible, according to Pierce. It will require the cooperation of food processing companies, who have been responsive so far. The end result will be a world with less obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

In the United States, some progress has been made in banning trans fats. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared trans fat to be unsafe in foods. The FDA set an original date of June 18, 2018, for manufacturers to stop adding this harmful component to food. They have since extended the compliance deadline to Jan. 1, 2020.

Here are a few tips from Jennifer O. Kyser, licensed and registered dietitian with Norton Weight Management Services, on how to avoid trans fats:

  • Stay away from store-bought and prepackaged cakes and icing, cookies, doughnuts and other baked goods. They usually contain trans fat. Many crackers, chips and snack foods also contain it.
  • Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat.
  • When grocery shopping, buy most of your food from the perimeter of the store. This is where you will find fresh, whole foods. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, eggs and nuts — all are free of trans fats.
  • Even though a product may be listed as trans fat-free, it still may contain small amounts. Based on current labeling laws, it is legal to label a product as trans fat-free if it contains 0.5 gram or less per serving. Therefore, if you eat more than one serving of a product, you may be consuming more trans fat than you realize.
  • Look at the ingredients list and if partially hydrogenated oil is listed, avoid it.

Know your numbers

Working with a provider to know your blood sugar (glucose), triglyceridescholesterol and blood pressure numbers can help you keep an eye on your health.

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