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WHO Wants to Remove Trans Fats from Food

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

There may be something in your food that you cannot see and cannot taste. But it could be killing you.

It is an artificial oil commonly called trans fat.

'Trans fat is a toxic chemical that has been added to our food supply and accounts for an estimated more than 500,000 deaths every year.'

That is Dr. Tom Frieden. He is head of the public health organization Resolve to Save Lives. He was the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States from 2009 to 2017.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a plan to help countries remove trans fats from the world’s food supply within the next five years.

Frieden says the move is unprecedented.

“This is the first time there has ever been an elimination program to get rid of -- not an infectious disease like polio or small pox -- but a non-communicable disease, in this case the risk factor for heart attacks that trans fat causes. This is an unprecedented move. And it’s really important that government and communities around the world replace artificial trans fats with healthier oils.”

What is artificial trans fat?

Artificial trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. Food makers use this low-priced oil so food will stay fresh longer.

“Although trans fats extend the shelf life of food, we think the priority should be the length and health of human life. That’s more important than the shelf life of food. There are alternatives to industrially produced trans fats.”

Trans fat can be found in foods such as donuts, cakes, cookies and deep-fried foods. Baked goods that sit on grocery shelves for many months but still remain soft and moist usually contain trans fat. This is because the oil remains solid at room temperature. And Frieden says this is why it is dangerous to eat.

'Trans fat is tasteless. It's solid at room temperature, but it's also solid at body temperature in your coronary arteries.'

Studies have found that trans fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood and increases the risk of heart disease.

High-income countries have either banned these artificial fats or are in the process of banning them because of their connection to heart disease. The Associated Press news agency says more than 40 high-income countries have been working on eliminating trans fats from foods.

Denmark banned trans fats in their food 15 years ago. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has called for food makers to stop using it by June 2018.

The World Health Organization is urging governments of low- and middle-income countries to do the same. Experts at the WHO say that three-quarters of the world's deaths from cardiovascular disease happen in low- and middle-income countries.

Where trans fats have been banned, heart attacks and deaths from heart disease have dropped greatly.

The WHO plan calls on governments to take specific steps. They include replacing trans fats with healthier oils such as olive oil, creating public awareness of the harms of trans fats, and enforcing anti-trans fat policies and laws.

If people stop eating products made with trans fats, more than 17 million lives could be saved over the next 25 years. Also a major source of heart disease will be eliminated.

And that’s the Health and Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.

Carol Pearson reported this story for VOA News in Washington. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English with additional reporting from the AP. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

artificial adj. not natural or real : made, produced, or done to seem like something natural

toxic adj. containing poisonous substances

account v. to give a reason or explanation for (something)

unprecedented adj. not done or experienced before

elimination n. the act or process of removing something or someone : eliminate – v. to remove (something that is not wanted or needed) : to get rid of (something)

noncommunicableadj. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression. The four main types of noncommunicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

hydrogen n. a chemical element that has no color or smell and that is the simplest, lightest, and most common element

shelf lifen. the length of time that food may be stored and still be good to eat

priority n. something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first

coronary medical of or relating to the heart and especially to the vessels that supply blood to the heart

cardiovascular medical : of or relating to the heart and blood vessels

specific adj. clearly and exactly presented or stated : precise or exact

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