OXFORD, UNITED KINGDOM — While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has moved to ban partially hydrogenated oils, and effectively eliminate industrial trans fats in processed foods, the authors of a study appearing Sept. 15 in the BMJ urge England to take similar action. Banning industrial trans fatty acids in processed foods in England potentially may prevent 7,200 deaths from coronary heart disease over a five-year period, according to the study.
“The current policy climate is ideal for shutting the door effectively on trans fatty acids,” the authors concluded. “Decisive action is now indicated, prioritizing the most effective and cost-effective policy options.”
The F.D.A. this year in the June 17 issue of the Federal Register said it had determined there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils (phos), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for any use in human food. U.S. food manufacturers have until June 18, 2018, to remove phos from their products.
Trans fatty acids increase the risk of mortality from coronary heart disease by increasing L.D.L. (bad) cholesterol and decreasing H.D.L. (good) cholesterol, according to the study in the BMJ. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of mortality in the United Kingdom with about 180,000 deaths in 2010 and economic costs of £19 billion in 2009, according to the study.
To investigate ways to reduce the number of such deaths, researchers looked at three forms of action that England could take: the total ban on industrial trans fatty acids in processed foods, improved labeling of trans fatty acids, and bans of industrial trans fatty acids in restaurants.
The study found the total ban on industrial trans fats in processed foods in England might prevent or postpone deaths from coronary heart disease by about 2.6%, or 7,200 deaths, from 2015-20. The total ban would have net cost savings of £264 million if reformulation occurs as a normal part of the business cycle or £64 million if substantial reformulation costs are incurred outside the normal cycle.
“Elimination of trans fatty acids from processed foods is an achievable target for public health policy,” the study’s authors concluded.
The other two forms of action, improved labeling of trans fats and industrial trans fats bans in restaurants, each would be at best half as effective as a total ban.
Researchers in the United Kingdom from Lancaster University, Liverpool University and the University of Oxford used data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey, Office of National Statistics and health economic data from other published studies. They considered adults age 25 and over.Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, a representative sample of United Kingdom householders where people complete food diaries, showed primary sources of industrial trans fatty acids are cereal products, margarines, potato chips, confectionery items and other snacks. A total ban of industrial trans fatty acids in processed foods in England would reduce average intake of trans fats from 0.7% of total energy/calorie intake to 0.4%.