Call to ban trans-fats

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Calls to ban trans-fats in UK foods

Pressure to ban trans-fats in UK foods is increasing, with experts claiming in the British Medical Journal that 7,000 deaths a year could be prevented by reducing consumption by just one per cent.

Trans-fats, found in food like margarine, cakes and fast food are are used to extend shelf-life but have no nutritional value.  Banned in some countries, they have been found to raise cholesterol, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

An editorial in the British Medical Journal says that 11,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths could be prevented by just one percent reduction in consumption.

In January, UK Faculty of Public Health called for the consumption of trans-fats (also know as trans fatty acids) to be virtually eliminated.

It says that although trans-fats account for one per cent of the average UK adult's food energy intake - below the two percent advised as a dangerous level - some sections of the population eat far more than this and are being put at risk.

The UK's Food Standards Agency disagrees, following its review of trans-fats in 2007, which found UK consumption was lower than countries such as the US and that voluntary action from food manufacturers had been highly successful.

However, in the BMJ article, doctors from Harvard Medical School said bans in Denmark and New York had effectively eliminated trans-fats, without reducing food availability, taste, or affordability.

The article's authors Dariush Mozaffarian, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Meir J Stampfer, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, conclude: "Removing industrial TFAs is one of the most straightforward public health strategies for rapid improvements in health,"

References: BMJ 15 April 2010;340:c1826

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