Ban these fats to save lives and money, say experts

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Removing one food item from the Australian diet could save 2000 lives a year. And it’s something even laissez faire America has totally banned.

The George Institute for Global Health says trans fatty acids are costing Australia money and deaths from heart attacks.

It is estimated that a nationwide ban on industrial trans fatty acids in Australia’s food supply could prevent 2000 deaths and 10,000 heart attacks over the first 10 years and up to 42,000 deaths from heart disease over the lifetime of the adult population (the time from when the ban starts to when all individuals died or reached 100 years of age).

Heart disease puts 1100 Australians in hospital each day and causes one in five deaths, making it the nation’s leading cause of mortality.  

Dr Jason Wu, program head of nutrition science at the George Institute, says the intake of trans fatty acids in Australia, mostly for people with less education and income, continues to exceed health guidelines. It is estimated that one in 10 people consume levels that exceed health guidelines.

“Despite the known health risks, our previous research shows progress on reducing trans fats in Australia’s packaged food supply has slowed to a halt,” Dr Wu said.

He said this inaction is “really quite appalling”.

“We’re really lagging behind as a country. The US, Canada, Brazil – they’ve all banned that ingredient outright. There are other countries that have said you can’t have more than say 2 per cent as a total in any given product.

“Others said we’re not going to ban it, but we are going to make it very transparent for consumers, saying you must label the amount of trans fat that’s contained in your food so people can make an informed choice.

“But in Australia, trans fat is not a required label. You won’t find it in the nutrition information panel.”

It has been argued that limiting trans fats, as many other countries do, would be too costly for the food industry. Most trans fat is formed by an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, so foods made with it have a longer shelf life. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers because it doesn’t have to be changed as often as other oils.

But the government would save money by banning trans fats.

“The cost of implementing this legislative measure was estimated to be $22 million during the first 10 years and $56 million over the population lifetime, most of which was down to government costs for monitoring implementation of the ban,” the George Institute said in a media release.

“However, the estimated heart disease-related healthcare cost savings, compared to no ban, reached $80 million over 10 years and $538 million over a lifetime.”

Dietitians Australia says there are only small amounts of trans fats in beef, lamb, and dairy foods. Processed foods are the villains.

“What we really need to watch out for are the trans fats in processed foods. The trans fats in deep fried foods, cakes and biscuits, and pies and pastries form when oils and fats are heated at a high temperature. So, to avoid trans fats, try to steer clear of processed foods and eat mainly whole, fresh foods.”

The Mayo Clinic says trans fat is the “worst type of fat you can eat”.

“Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat… raises your ‘bad’ cholesterol and also lowers your ‘good’ cholesterol.

“The more trans fat you eat, the greater your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.”

In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration prohibited food manufacturers from adding the major source of artificial trans fat to foods and beverages.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is on a mission to eliminate trans fats globally by 2023.

“Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life and are cheaper than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that do not affect taste or cost of food,” it says.

According to the WHO, 58 countries so far have introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from the harmful substance by the end of 2021.

“But more than 100 countries still need to take actions to remove these harmful substances from their food supplies.”

Dr Wu says such simple changes in diet can “rapidly improve your health”.

“There are trials that show if you give people healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and decrease things like trans fat, within six to 12 weeks you can really drop people’s LDL (bad) cholesterol, you can lower their blood pressure.

Dr Wu says consumers should check the ingredient lists of products in supermarkets.

“If you see it says this product contains partially hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, then definitely stay away from that product because that’s indicative of the presence of trans fats.”

Smart eating tips to limit trans fats in your diet: (Dietitians Australia)

  • avoid deep-fried fast foods and takeaways
  • cut the visible fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken
  • choose low-fat dairy foods
  • limit cream and butter.

Foods that contain trans fats (Mayo Clinic)

  • baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, and pies
  • shortening
  • microwave popcorn
  • frozen pizza
  • refrigerated dough, such as biscuits and rolls
  • fried foods, including French fries, doughnuts, and fried chicken
  • non-dairy coffee creamer.

Do you know which foods you eat contain trans fats? Would it be difficult for you to avoid trans fats?

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Written by Will Brodie


Total Comments: 22
  1. 0

    I’ll eat what I like, drink what I like and if it kills me at least I’ll die happy. Come on Will Brodie, isn’t Australia a free country where as long as things are legal people can make a choice as to how they want to live their lives? All things in moderation is the answer, if something is not as healthy as other things then don’t eat or drink too much of them. The last thing we need in 2020 is the fun police to step in.

    • 0

      Hmmmm asbestos was still going strong here when a hell of a lot of other countries had banned it.

      Australia regulators are certainly way behind and always will be…..they don’t care, immigration will take care of the trans fat heart attacks…

    • 1

      Eat what you like, drink what you like, in fact you even free to smoke what you like Horace as long as you don’t get caught. I think the main concern is the cost on the public purse with medicare inevitably having to foot the bill for those who do incur serious health issues. Medicare and private health is stumbling now to meet the increasing costs of self-inflicted health problems. I was probably one of your fun police Horace, before I retired. I was a registered nurse for 35 years and saw the long term damage to those who thumbed their noses at health advice and nutritional risks.

    • 1

      Horace, good for you. However for many people advice like this is well received. BTW where’s the fun in eating processed food that could end your life prematurely ?

    • 0

      The important statement Horace is “as long as things are legal”. Why not follow other countries lead and ban trans fats because they are bad for you. We have banned many drugs because of the effects they have but if used legally many of these are actually beneficial.
      It all boils down to why things are banned. Tobacco probably should be banned but the tobacco lobby is very powerful. Just because a product is legal doesn’t mean it is healthy or even safe to consume.

  2. 0

    ” mostly for people with less education and income “


  3. 0

    But States are responsible for hospitals and Scott Morrison keeps on promoting the economy over States that have done the right thing with covid. Look at the comments about Anna keeping the border shut. But then look at how Queensland voted.
    Also what about his reaction to the bushfires while he was in Hawaii. He still has no good environmental project going forward and neither really do most states. Australia has a very bad name for this in slowing down the world and unfortunately rightly so.
    All governments need to promote this no trans fat business and at least make the amount of trans fat be compulsory on labels. Big business food products are nowhere near bankrupt. We should be able to make an informed choice even if some people don’t care about their futures. If they can do it in some countries they shouldn’t be given an excuse to get out of their responsibility to tell the truth. We did that with smoking for long enough. I agree that cigarettes are still sold and many can’t give up but at least there are many areas where we don’t have to be subjected to the pollution of others.

    • 0

      YOu do know that a source of trans fats is the BBQ, that nice cake you baked or the crust of fresh bread you picked at on the way home right? Trans fats are not added to foods as such, they are a product of heating food and especially browning it!

  4. 0

    This stuff really annoys me – they take us for fools!
    Natural foods eg: meat, butter etc do not contain harmful trans fats – processed, commercially made foods eg: margarine, oils, biscuits, cakes etc do contain trans fats.
    I will only use real milk, butter and virgin olive oils – the bit of fat we consume from real food and cream etc in moderation makes us healthier than the “so called healthy” crap they have been peddling for decades! Our bodies need some fat – our bodies do not need lab created poison!

  5. 0

    Horace cope you are ill informed. Don’t ban it but give fair warning how much transfat is contained in 100mg of food THEN you can make your choice and you can die happy knowing what you ate was NOT JUST LEGAL BOT GOOD OR BAD FOR YOU. just because it is legal does not make it good for you. You can LEGALLY buy deadly poisons that will kill you

  6. 0

    Butter is marked as a bad food, but it is churned from cream, no trans fats. The hype is that margerine is healthier, but to turn liquid oils to a product similar to butter needs to be solidified, thereby creating trans fats, and no regulation on the quantity of trans fats is listed on the label.

    • 0

      I buy margarine as it was recommended as good for anyone like me who has high cholesterol so after reading the article I went and checked. I have two containers – one is Flora ProActiv and and the other is Olive Grove. The good news is both brands do list low amounts of trans fat so I am informed. The bad news however is that they do both have it so no more margarine for me and its back to butter, in small amounts.

  7. 0

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear!

    A soupcon of research would show that Australia consumes 0.5% of their daily energy consumption from TFAs. The World Health Organisation recommendation is that no more than 1% of energy intake should come from TFAs. Australia is well below that recommendation.

    However, we are exceeding the recommendations in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines that saturated and trans fatty acids combined contribute no more than 10% of our daily energy intake. In Australia, this is about 12%. So if TFAs account for just 0.5% the other 11.5% comes from saturated fat.

    Now of course there are arguments for and against saturated fats with regard to their health status, but regardless we eat too much. Obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases prove that. Cut back a little with the baked goods and charcoaled meats and you’ll be just fine.

  8. 0

    I haven’t had a deep fried donut for years but I’d love to have one.
    I don’t think that one donut every few years is going to cause too much harm.
    Just do it.

  9. 0

    KSS is right when she says we eat too much, and consequently get too much of the bad as well as the good. I have been around a bit in my time, and never have I seen such huge servings of food as we get here when eating out (I haven’t been to America where I am reliably told they outdo us).

    I would gladly pay a little over half price for a half portion if food could be served that way.

    I am sure most of us can remember the very much smaller scones and muffins of days gone by. I mourn them as I do a slice of cake that used to be a quarter portion of what we see in the glass cases in cafes. I have to go without as I literally cannot eat that much.

    Horace Cope how can we choose what we want to eat if we don’t know what it is made of?

    Golden Oldie I think you’re a bit out of date- the hype about the goodness of margarine is long gone.

    • 0

      Maggie, I agree with you on the excessive sizes of the servings offered too often in pubs and clubs. I did manage to get away with ordering a Children’s serving in a NSW country RSL club once, but I notice now that there is often a proviso that the venue won’t serve them to anyone over 13! I don’t need or want a plate overflowing and piled high, no matter how delicious that local fillet of steak is, it is more than a sensible meal.

    • 0

      Hi Maggie, I also agree with you and Couldabeen. I have managed on a few occasions to acquire a “Kids” meal in a pub or club. I waste a lot of food if I get a full-size serving as well as a waste of my money. I would rather have a small meal which I can enjoy and finish, and I don’t necessarily need the ice-cream or drink that comes with the “Kids” meal. As for eating, we are what we are. We should all be able to make our own informed choices whether they are the right or wrong choice. If we choose to go down the path of “destruction” by eating the wrong foods then that is our fault and no else is to blame.

  10. 0

    This is another example of this governments refusal to legislate and inform the consumer of the contents of food we are eating, most junk food and high trans fat food are produced by multi nationals, would it not be sensible to inform the purchaser of ALL the contents and sources, John Howard’s comment “to much label information just confuses people” should be treated with disdain

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