From Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Trans fat ban would prevent 40,000 deaths a year

NHS watchdog calls for action

Banning trans fats from foods could prevent 20,000 deaths each year due to heart disease, a health watchdog has said.

And a further 20,000 lives could be saved if the levels of saturated fat and salt in everyday foods was also reduced, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said.

Trans fats, or trans fatty acids are the solid fats found in margarines, biscuits, cakes and fast food. Too much trans fats in your diet has a similar effect to eating too much saturated fat.

Both types of fat are linked to increased levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or 'bad' cholesterol in the blood and reduced levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) or 'good' cholesterol.

Trans fats have also been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and are classified as toxic by the World Health Organisation.

As well as eliminating trans fats from all foods, the the NICE guidelines recommend that food manufacturers be encouraged to reduce the amount of "hidden" saturated fat and salt in foods, backed up by "supportive legislation" from the government if necessary.

Lower salt and saturated fat foods should also be sold at cheaper prices than their high fat, high salt equivalents, they said.

On average, people in the UK consume more than eight grams of salt a day, yet we should be eating no more than six grams. High amounts of dietary salt intake is a major risk factor for high blood pressure and stroke.

But NICE wants to see a maximum intake of six grams per day per adult by 2015 and three grams daily by 2025.

They also recommend adopting the traffic light food labelling system, which is supported by leading health charities such as the British Heart Foundation but rejected by the European Parliament last week.

Professor Mike Kelly, Public Health Director at NICE, said: “This guidance aims to save lives and reduce the terrible toll of ill health caused by heart disease and stroke.

"Making the simple changes recommended could prevent around 40,000 premature deaths in people aged under 75 each year. Taking action now will also save many millions of pounds every year.

This isn’t about telling individuals to choose salad instead of chips - it’s about making sure that the chips we all enjoy occasionally are as healthy as possible.

"And the best way to do this is to encourage the companies who provide our food to build on the good work they’ve already done.

That means making further reductions in the salt, trans fats and saturated fats in the food we eat everyday.”

This article was published on Tue 22 June 2010