Research Suggests a Trans Fats Ban Would Save Lives

Wednesday 16th September 2015

According to research, a UK ban on trans fats would save 7,200 lives over the next five years.

This artificial fat is used to advance the shelf-life, texture and taste of processed foods, but it also occurs naturally some meats and most dairy products.

Experts from both Liverpool University’s Department of Public Health and Policy and Oxford University suggest that placing a ban on trans fats could save thousands of lives across Britain each year.

In a British Medical Journal publication, experts write that about 7,200 heart disease deaths could be prevented over the next five years in England if a ban was placed on trans fats.

There is currently no legal obligation for manufacturers to label artificial fats on foods. It is advised that consumers check the list of ingredients for hydrogenated vegetable oils or hydrogenated fats.

It is also not legally required to rid foods of trans fats. Some manufacturers have committed to work towards the removal of them through the Government’s responsibility deal. However, authors of the study said voluntary commitments made by industry don’t go far enough and ‘decisive action’ should be taken.

They also said a complete ban on trans fatty acids in processed foods could postpone or prevent around 7,200 deaths from heart disease between 2015-2020.

The study’s authors say policies to improve labelling or just remove trans fats from fast foods and restaurants might save between 1,800 and 3,500 heart disease deaths and reduce inequalities by 1500 deaths. This would make them half as effective at best. They feel a regulatory policy to eradicate trans fats from Britain’s processed foods would be the most equitable and effective option.

However, the researchers believe that continuing simply to rely on industry to reformulate products voluntarily could have negative economic and health outcomes.

Industrial trans fats come from plant oils in a process called hydrogenation. A higher intake of these fats is connected to a greater risk of heart disease and death. Lower-income families are said to be more likely to consume trans fats.

Consultant cardiologist from the University of Sheffield, Dr Tim Chico, said it’s clear that trans fats (the use of which is only beneficial to the food industry) increase the risk of coronary disease.

He said the conclusion of this study is that a trans fat ban would save a substantial amount of lives, as well as saving the public money. This doesn’t even account for the emotional costs to families who have suffered the effects of heart disease.

Professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, Tom Sanders, said industrial artificial fats are almost absent from UK diets, and the number of preventable deaths given in the study is flawed.

He said that higher intakes of trans fats in low-income groups could be explained mainly by the fact that they are more likely to have fatty meat products and full fat butter and milk, and added that naturally occurring sources of trans fats are not linked to an increased risk of heart disease.