war on trans fats

The World Health Organization declares war on trans fats

Food, Nutrology

The World Health Organization (WHO), which has never before urged a worldwide ban on a food product, just declared war on trans fat. Normally the WHO directs global campaigns against infectious diseases, but in this special case, it concluded that if these fats were banned globally by 2023, over 10 million lives would be saved.

What is a trans fat?

Trans fats occur naturally in some meats and dairy products, but only in trace amounts. The fat that concerns the WHO and health experts is the type that is artificially made by the food industry. They are produced by a process called “hydrogenation”, in which hydrogen atoms are added to a liquid vegetable oil. This process turns the oil solid and markedly increases shelf life. It is cheap to make, and (unfortunately), tastes good.

Trans fat history

They were popularized in the 1950s, and by the 1970s, as heart disease rates skyrocketed, many scientists were suspecting these fats as one explanation. By 1990, the issue was settled since overwhelming evidence showed that these fats were indeed accumulating in blood vessels, leading to early heart attacks. By that time, however, they was already established in many foods and the food industry resisted changing what was working. In 2006, New York City was the first city to ban their use in restaurants, and many Scandinavian countries followed. Brazil has worked to decrease them but has not yet banned their use. The USA banned them starting in 2018.

In places where these fats were no longer permitted, heart attack rates soon decreased. For example, in New York City, heart attack and stroke rates decreased by 6% in the years following the ban.

Health problems from trans fats

Trans fats have been called “the worst possible type of fat”, worse even than saturated fats. Trans fats cause LDL cholesterol—the type that sticks in arteries—levels to raise, while decreasing HDL levels. HDL is the “good” cholesterol, which soaks up LDL molecules. Even a small amount of trans fats is dangerous. It is estimated that a 2% increase in trans fat consumption raises a person’s heart attack risk by 23%. Besides heart problems, they contribute to strokes and diabetes.

Where they are found

The food industry has been slowly replacing these fats with other, safer, types of fat. But still, in Brazil and many countries, these fats can be found in some of these products. Note that many of these no longer contain trans fats, but they may. You need to check the label to know.

-Fried foods (especially French Fries)

-Fast foods


-Ice cream

-Pie crusts

-Non-dairy creamers

-Cakes and cookies

-Microwave popcorn

-Crackers, potato chips, and similar snack foods

How to avoid

Look at the nutritional label and see if the trans fat content is zero. Also see if there is any ingredient listed as “partially hydrogenated”. If the trans fat is not zero, or there is any ingredient “partially hydrogenated”, find an alternative brand. And it would be smart to ask your bakery if they use any of these fats.

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website: www.Procuramed.com.

See also in ProcuraMed:

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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