Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Use of hydrogenated fats (PHO) by the food processing industry, especially the bakery industry, continues unabated in spite of massive evidence generated during the last few years on the effect of trans fats present in PHO, often exceeding 45%. Recent reports even suggest that those already suffering from coronary heart disease may have much higher chance of sudden cardiac death if PHO containing foods are consumed. A country like Canada where the industry offered voluntary cuts in PHO use in various products two years ago, stiff mandatory regulations are likely to be enforced after the failure of the industry to keep to its promise.

"High trans-fat intake has been linked to coronary heart disease, in which fatty plaques build up in the heart arteries, sometimes leading to a heart attack. But whether trans fats raise a person's risk of dying suddenly from cardiac arrest has not been clear. Sudden cardiac death is usually caused by rhythm disturbances in the heart's upper chambers that render the organ incapable of pumping blood to the rest of the body. Some research suggests that trans fats could promote heart-rhythm abnormalities, but there is only limited evidence that they raise the odds of sudden cardiac death. In the new study, researchers found that among nearly 87,000 U.S. women followed for 26 years, trans fat intake was not linked to the risk of sudden cardiac death across the whole study group. However, when they looked only at women who had underlying coronary heart disease, there was evidence of an increased risk. In this group, women who ate the most trans fats -- typically getting 2.5 percent of their daily calories from the fats -- were three times more likely to die of cardiac arrest than those who ate the least -- getting less than 1 percent of daily calories in the form of trans fat. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says the government's voluntary approach to get some food companies and restaurants to reduce the amount of trans fats in their products has failed — laying the ground work for possible regulations to limit the artery-clogging ingredient in everything from cookies to french fries. Final results from Health Canada's two-year voluntary program are in, and the numbers show many processed foods and restaurant dishes are still stacked with trans fats, Aglukkaq admitted. She singled out bakery products, doughnuts, cookies and desserts that "remain high in trans fat," as well as small- and medium-sized food service operators that "face challenges in controlling" trans fat levels in their menu items".

If trans fats are confirmed to be harmful, why no one is taking the preventive action to ban the manufacture and selling of PHO is not clear. Could it be because PHO has other non-food uses that prevents such an approach? It is high time that there is a global agreement on this vexatious issue with out much loss of time and precious lives.

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