Ban trans fats and thousands of lives will be saved, UK told

Scientists urge Britain to follow the example of other countries

Banning trans fats – whose nutritional value is sometimes compared to putting "melted tupperware on toast" – would save thousands of lives, researchers say today.

The UK should follow the example of New York, California, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria and implement a ban on the hydrogenated vegetable oils whose main selling point is that they are cheap, experts from Harvard Medical School and Harvard Public School of Health, Boston, US, say.

Trans fats – also known as trans-fatty acids – are found in cakes, pastries, pies, biscuits, snacks and fast foods. They are formed when liquid vegetable oil is turned into solid fat in a high temperature process called hydrogenation, and, as well as being cheap, they extend the shelf life of products that contain them.

Even a 1 per cent fall in use of the fats, as a proportion of total daily calories, would prevent an estimated 11,000 heart attacks and save 7,000 lives a year in England alone. Consumption of trans fats in developed nations ranges from 2-4 per cent of total calorie intake, they say.

In New York, voluntary efforts to reduce their use failed, but when they were banned in 2007 the proportion of New York restaurants using trans fats fell from 50 per cent to less than 2 per cent. (Some trans fats occur naturally so they cannot be totally eliminated.) Fears that trans fats would be replaced with saturated animal fat, which is also bad for health, have proved unfounded.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dariush Mozaffarian, assistant professor of medicine, and Meir Stampfer, professor of epidemiology at Harvard, say removing industrial trans fats is "one of the most straightforward public health strategies for rapid improvements in health".

A ban would save lives, be easy to implement yet have no impact on the price, sales, taste or availability of the affected foods, they say.

Several British supermarket chains, including Marks and Spencer and Waitrose, have phased out trans fats, as have some food manufacturers. The New England Journal of Medicine published a scientific review of trans fats in 2007 which said that "from a nutritional standpoint, the consumption of trans-fatty acids results in considerable potential harm but no apparent benefit".

The Food Standards Agency said consumption of trans fats in the UK was down to 1 per cent of total energy intake on average, half the maximum safe level recommended by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

The Agency reviewed the safety of trans fats in 2007, including the legal bans introduced in Denmark and New York, and concluded that saturated fat found in meat, butter and milk posed a bigger health problem because of the larger quantities consumed. Efforts should be focused on reducing consumption of saturated fats, it said.

The Food and Drink Federation said the BMJ editorial did not contain any "population intake levels" and "could give rise to unnecessary health concerns". Barbara Gallani, the federation's director of food safety and science, said: "Artificial trans fats have been virtually eliminated from processed foods in the UK.

"Intakes are at even lower levels than shown by previous surveys – reportedly 0.8 per cent – well below the recommended maximum of of 2 per cent of food energy. The UK Government has recently concluded that trans fats at these levels do not pose health risks to UK consumers, an opinion with which we concur."

Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation said the reduction in trans fats was 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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Day In a Page

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor