WHO urges countries to ban hydrogenated fats

Wednesday May 16 2018

 trans fats

Meat preserved by acacia. The World Health Organisation has urged governments around the globe to ban the use of trans fats. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged governments around the globe to ban the use of trans fats.

In a set of guidelines issued by the UN health agency, trans fats should be eradicated from global food supplies by 2023, potentially saving 10 million lives.

These types of fats have been altered to be more like saturated fat and are therefore more solid at room temperature.

Trans fats also occur naturally in some foods such as meat and milk products.


They began to be widely used in the early 1900s when the chemical process of hydrogenation was invented.

Researchers looking for long-lasting oil developed a method of altering the chemical structure of fat to solidify it, thereby preventing it from getting spoilt in a short time.

The trans fats have recently been identified as the cause of heart attacks and strokes, an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and infertility in women.

The fat is harmful on the human circulation system, causing a rise in levels of bad cholesterol and a decline in levels of good cholesterol.

Artificial trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are estimated to cause at least half million deaths a year, with the bulk occurring in developing countries.


A number of countries have already restricted or banned trans fats, including Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, Britain and the United States.

Despite these bans, trans fats remain popular in many emerging economies like Kenya, where local producers dominate the edible oil industry in the face of weak or vague regulations and restrictions.

“The reality is that global food companies have done an amazing job reducing trans fats in rich countries but they have largely ignored Asia and Africa,” said Prof Barry Popkin, a nutrition lecturer at the Chapel Hill campus University of North Carolina.