Healthy living

Ban trans fats to save lives, say docs

Zone default image Would prevent 7,000 death each year

Banning trans fats from all foods in the UK would prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths every year, say health experts.

According to their predictions, 11,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths in England alone could be prevented by a 1% reduction in consumption of trans fats in our food.

Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are the solid fats found in margarines, biscuits, cakes, and fast food. Eating too much of them has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

Trans fats increase the amount of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol" in the blood and reduce the amount of high density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good cholesterol."

People with high levels of LDL cholesterol tend to have a higher risk of getting heart disease, while people with high levels of HDL cholesterol tend to have a lower risk.

In the UK, the Foods Standards Agency believes a complete ban on trans fats in foods to be unnecessary, as the average levels consumed in the UK is relatively low.

However, in an editorial into-day's online British Medical Journal, doctors from Harvard Medical School say that bans in Denmark and New York City have shown that trans fats in foods can be removed from food without affecting the taste, availability or price.

They also added there was no evidence to suggest a ban would lead to people eating more saturated fats instead, also harmful to the heart.

Victoria Taylor, Senior Heart Health Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation commented: “This editorial highlights just how important it is for us to keep industrially produced trans fats out of our diets to help keep our hearts healthy.

“Whilst legislation has been used in other countries to remove trans fats from people’s diets, in the UK voluntary measures by the food industry have already achieved significant reductions in the amount of trans fat in our diets.

On average, we now consume less than the recommended maximum of 2% of total food energy from trans fats.

“This is good progress but we still need to do more to make sure that the industrially produced trans fats don’t creep back into our nation’s diets. We can only do this by continuing to track carefully how much we are eating, and setting clear targets for food manufacturers to achieve.

“Combining these measures with clear and consistent traffic light food labelling are essential steps to help shoppers make healthier choices.”

This article was published on Fri 16 April 2010

Image © Tomasz Trojanowski -

Related Stories

Use this story

Healthy eating
Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page