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WHO plans to eliminate trans-fat from the global food supply – will Australians win the battle of the bulge?

OPINION –

Why are Australians always the last to follow?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced its aim to get rid of industrially-produced trans-fats from the global food supply within the next five years.

Trans-fat has been linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the death of more than 500,000 people with non-communicable diseases (NCD) globally each year.

Australians love their junk food, and our national waist line is getting fatter.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2014-2015 shows that two out of every three people over the age of 18 are either overweight or obese.

Aussie males aged 45 years and over are almost four in five for being overweight or obese in the same period of time.

This trend has been on the increase for the past three decades, and the average weight of Australians has increased around 0.5 to 1 kg per year since 1989.


Video explanation of what is a trans-fatty acids explained by YouTube Channel Seeker.

Trans-fatty acids (TFAs) occur both naturally in foods and in man-made products.

A German chemist, Wilhelm Normann, back in 1900, found that vegetable or fish oils could be treated with hydrogen gas to make them hydrogenated, converting a liquid into a solid or semi-solid oil. He found that hydrogenating the oils made them more versatile—long-lasting and cheaper than animal fats.

Trans Fat
Chip cooking and trans-fat used in the fast food industries.

In the 1970s to 1980s, research began to link the man-made hydrogenated trans-fat to heart disease, but the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded at the time that the overall evidence showed trans-fat was not harmful.

By the 1990s, human disease studies clearly showed very strong evidence linking trans-fat and heart disease.

Denmark became the first country to ban hydrogenated trans-fat in 2004, and a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on Denmark’s trans-fat ban has shown dramatic decreases in death from CVD.

Prior to the Danish ban, annual death rates from CVD were 441.5 deaths per 100,000 people; within three years, it dropped to 14.2 deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Several countries then began to restrict or ban trans-fat, including Canada, Switzerland, Britain, and the United States. And by next month, all food items sold in the United States must be free of hydrogenated trans-fat.

Within the coming weeks, Thailand is similarly issuing a total ban, as reported in the New York Times.

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