trans fat health
Over 5 billion people constantly come into contact with trans fat which is dangerous to health.

Researchers Urge FG to Implement Trans-fat Elimination Policy

Researchers have advocated for the Federal Government to implement the trans-fat elimination policy.

This call was indicated in a recent analysis conducted by The George Institute for Global Health, a leading medical research institute focused on the biggest health challenges and improving health for all and published in BMJ Global Health

In 2023, Nigeria became the second African country, following South Africa, to adopt a best practice trans-fat elimination policy, however, it is yet to be implemented.

It was earlier reported that the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC) Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye had highlighted efforts made to address the issue of industrially produced trans fats in Nigeria.

According to her, Nigeria was collaborating with industry stakeholders and partners to explore alternative sources to the existing partially hydrogenated oils, which are the primary source of these harmful substances.

However, the study noted that trans-fat elimination is crucial in combating heart disease, and the findings underscored the urgent need for government action to safeguard public health and reduce healthcare costs.

The study further highlights the significant impact of enforcing this policy, indicating that it could prevent approximately 260,000 deaths related to heart disease and save an estimated N185 billion in healthcare expenses over the population’s lifetime.

Industrial trans fats are non-essential substances found in packaged and baked foods and certain cooking oils, which are used to make processed, fried, and street foods, such as suya.

They are produced during partial hydrogenation, a process where vegetable oils are hardened to solid fats that can be used in processed, fried, and street foods.

The study also noted that, globally, industrial trans fats are responsible for around 500,000 premature deaths from heart disease every year, mostly in low- and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018, called for the global elimination of industrially produced trans-fat.

It lists the elimination of industrial trans fats as an effective intervention for the prevention of non-communicable diseases like heart disease.

The WHO noted that the top two best-practice policies are setting a mandatory limit of 2g trans-fat per 100g of total fat in all foods, and a ban on the production and use of partially hydrogenated oils.

The global health body further revised its target for the virtual elimination of industrial trans fats globally to 2025.

Speaking on the research findings, the Head of the Cardiovascular Research Unit at the University of Abuja and a senior author of the research, Prof Dike Ojji, said governments must act swiftly to address the rising burden of cardiovascular disease that endangers the health of populations, care services, and economies across Africa.

We hope the mounting evidence supporting the elimination of trans fats will encourage other African nations to emulate Nigeria’s best practice policy.”

The research, funded by the Northwestern University Havey Institute for Global Health and the National Institutes of Health, also found that implementing the policy could prevent or postpone 67,000 cases of heart disease within the first ten years. This equates to a total of 260,000 deaths and 480,000 cases of heart disease prevented across the entire lifetime of the population.

On his part, the lead author and Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute, Dr Matti Marklund said, “Although trans-fat intakes in Nigeria may be considerably lower than in many other countries, our analysis indicates that its trans-fat policy could still save thousands of lives in just a matter of years.

“The implementation costs represent a small fraction of the substantial savings that a trans-fat limit can offer healthcare systems, mirroring findings from a separate study we led in Kenya last year.”

SOURCE: HealthWise