This food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk

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In a recent study, researchers found that banning a harmful ingredient from the food supply could prevent thousands of deaths from heart disease.

The research was conducted by a team from The George Institute for Global Health.

Trans fatty acids—made during the industrial process that converts vegetable oils into a solid form of fat—are a well-known risk factor for heart disease.

But it has been argued that eliminating them completely—as required by law in many overseas countries—would be too costly for both government and the food industry.

While trans fats occur naturally at low levels in meat and cow’s milk, people in most countries can also get them from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in processed foods such as pastries.

But avoiding them isn’t easy because it’s not compulsory for manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on the nutrition information panel on packaged foods.

In the study, the team set out to calculate the potential costs and health benefits of a nationwide ban on industrial trans-fatty acids in Australia’s food supply.

They found that such a ban could prevent around 2,000 deaths and 10,000 heart attacks over the first ten years and up to 42,000 deaths from heart disease over the lifetime of the adult population.

The cost of implementing this legislative measure was estimated to be A$22 million during the first ten years and A$56 million over the population lifetime, most of which was down to government costs for monitoring implementation of the ban.

However, the estimated heart disease-related healthcare cost savings, compared to no ban, reached A$80 million over ten years and A$538 million over a lifetime.

Overall, the elimination of trans fatty acids was estimated to be cost-saving to highly cost-effective during the first ten years and highly cost-effective over the population lifetime.

The results supported the call by the WHO to eliminate trans fats from the food supply around the world.

One author of the study is Dr. Jason Wu, Program Head of Nutrition Science.

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.

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