Banning trans fats in Britain would save lives, research suggests
Banning trans fats in Britain would save 7,200 lives over the next five years, research suggests.
The artificial fat is used to improve the taste, texture and shelf-life of processed foods, although trans fats also occur naturally in dairy such as whole milk, and some meats.
Experts from Oxford University and the Department of Public Health and Policy at Liverpool University suggest that banning the fats from processed foods could save thousands of lives across the UK every year.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), experts said around 7,200 deaths from heart disease could be prevented in England over the next five years if the artificial fats were banned.
At the moment, there is no legal requirement for food manufacturers to label trans fats. Consumers are advised to check ingredients lists for hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils.
There is also no legal requirement to remove trans fats from foods. Some manufacturers have pledged a commitment to working towards removing trans fats through the Government's responsibility deal.
The study's authors said voluntary commitments from industry did not go far enough and it was time for "decisive action".
They said: "A total ban on trans fatty acids in processed foods might prevent or postpone about 7,200 deaths from coronary heart disease from 2015-20 and reduce inequality in mortality from coronary heart disease by about 3,000 deaths.
"Policies to improve labelling or simply remove trans fatty acids from restaurants/fast food could save between 1,800 and 3,500 deaths from coronary heart disease and reduce inequalities by 600 to 1500 (7%) deaths, thus making them at best half as effective.
"A regulatory policy to eliminate trans fatty acids from processed foods in England would be the most effective and equitable policy option.
"Simply continuing to rely on industry to voluntary reformulate products, however, could have negative health and economic outcomes."
Industrial trans fats are produced from plant oils (a process known as hydrogenation).
Higher intake of these fats is linked with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and death. Poorer families are more likely to consume trans fats.
Dr Tim Chico, a consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said it was clear that artificially-manufactured trans fats, "whose use only benefits the food industry", increase the risk of heart disease.