IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


25th January, 2023 Health

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  • Five billion people globally are exposed to harmful trans fat, increasing their heart disease and death risk, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The Report is titled as: Countdown to 2023 - WHO report on global trans fat elimination.

Trans Fat:

  • Trans fat, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids, or trans fatty acids, is a type of unsaturated fatthat occurs in foods.
  • Trace concentrations of trans fats occur naturally, but large amounts are found in some processed foods. Since consumption of trans fats is unhealthy.
  • Most of the trans fat in the foods we eat is formed through a manufacturing process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which converts the liquid into a solid fat at room temperature. This process is called hydrogenation.
  • Hydrogenation, which uses hydrogen gas and metal catalysts to reduce the degree of unsaturation and provide proper physical characteristics in oils since 1890s, is a major process to generate trans fat in our daily diet.
  • Artificial trans fat has been banned in many nations, but it is still widely consumed in developing nations, resulting in hundreds of thousands of excess deaths each year.

Background and details of the WHO Report

  • WHO had advocated some best-practice policies for the global eradication of industrially generated trans fat by 2023. Coverage of these policies has expanded about six-fold since its inception.
  • At this point, just 43 countries have put best-practice regulations against trans fat in food, covering 2.8 billion people worldwide.
  • Five billion people are still exposed to the devasting health effects of trans fat, making the 2023 target unattainable.
  • Industrially produced trans fat is usually found in packaged foods, baked items, cooking oils and spreads. Trans fat intake is accountable for up to 500,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease annually.


  • Consumption of trans fats raises the level of bad LDL-cholesterol, an accepted biomarker of cardiovascular diseases.
  • It has been seen that diets high in trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent.
  • Nine countries — Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea — of the 16 nations with the highest estimated percentage of coronary heart disease fatalities attributed to trans fat consumption do not currently have a best-practices strategy.


Way Ahead

  • Best practices in trans fat removal policies minimise industrially generated trans fat in all contexts and adhere to specified standards put out by the WHO.
  • The following are the two best-practice policy options:
    • Mandatory National Limit of two grams of industrially produced trans fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods;
    • Mandatory National Ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods.
    • Although most trans fat elimination regulations have been implemented in higher-income countries, many middle-income nations — including Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, the Philippines and Ukraine — are now adopting these regulations.
    • Government and Policy makers need to expediate the process of eliminating Trans Fat by bringing in strict regulations.