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21-06-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

English health watchdog wants trans-fat ban

Abstract

NICE guidance

MedWire News: The watchdog for the National Health Service in England has called for a complete ban on trans fats in the human food chain.

Trans fats do not occur naturally, and are introduced during food processing. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that manufacturers and caterers have “considerably reduced” the amount of trans fats in food over recent years, but that a complete ban remains necessary.

It says that some sectors of society, such as people who regularly consume fried fast-food, still consume substantial amounts of trans fats. “It is important to protect all social groups from the adverse effects of [trans fats],” states the NICE guidance.

NICE stresses that trans fats should not be replaced by saturated fats and also calls for further reductions in saturated fats in food. The UK government should consider legislating, if necessary, to support reductions in the fats, says the watchdog.

Just these two recommendations could save over 20,000 lives in England each year, said the Chair of the NICE Guidance Development Group, Klim McPherson (Oxford University, UK).

The recommendations are part of a framework aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease.

NICE also wants further reductions in dietary salt, aiming for a maximum intake of 6 g per day for adults by 2015 and 3 g by 2025.

Low-salt and low-fat options should ideally be cheaper than the less healthy versions, says NICE. Again, it suggests legislating if necessary.

“Where food is concerned, we want the healthy choice to be the easy choice,” said McPherson. “Going even further, we want the healthy choice to be the less expensive, more attractive choice.”

The guidance, which has 12 key recommendations, also advocates clear and consistent food product labeling, encouraging physically active travel, restricting fast-food outlets in areas such as near schools, and protecting children and young people from marketing that encourages an unhealthy diet.

Overall, the NICE guidance should help to save the 40,000 lives lost to premature cardiovascular disease in England each year, said McPherson.

Vice Chair and public health physician Simon Capewell noted that the benefits should be seen relatively quickly – within 2 to 3 years of their implementation – and that the NHS will see cost savings as a result.

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Eleanor McDermid