All fats should be listed on food labels to help cut heart disease, according to researchers from the University of Oxford.
These experts putting forward their arguments in this week's British Medical Journal, say that this move is vital in order to combat the UK's number one killer, estimated to be responsible for almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe.
In addition cardiovascular disease is reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169 billion per year.
Trans fats mainly found in (partially) hydrogenated vegetable oil, are increasingly in the firing line of the researchers. While it is a public health issue in the US, public awareness of the problem in Europe is growing and food makers should be concerned because trans fats have been negatively linked to raising blood cholesterol levels and promoting heart disease. Increased levels of 'bad' cholesterol circulating in the blood, can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries supplying nutrients and oxygen to the heart and brain resulting in atherosclerosis.
Following a recent analysis of all the evidence, Oxford University researchers have recommended that people should reduce or stop their dietary intake of trans fatty acids to decrease the related risk of coronary heart disease.
According to the analysis a 2 per cent increase in the energy intake from trans fatty acids was associated with a 23 per cent increase in the occurrence of coronary heart disease. What was disturbing was the fact that the harmful effects of trans fatty acids were seen even when intake was really low, only 3 per cent of total daily energy intake, about 2-7 g for a person consuming 2000 calories per day.
States like Denmark had introduced legislation in 2004 which mandated that all oils and fats used in locally made or imported foods must contain less than 2 per cent industrially produced trans fatty acids. This has ensured almost its complete elimination from the food with affecting quality, cost, or availability of foods.
In January 2006 the US Food and Drug Administration made it mandatory that all food manufacturers should provide the content of trans fatty acids and cholesterol in addition to saturated fat on nutrition labels for all manufactured foods.
The UK Food Standards Agency is now pressing for revision of the European directive so that these fats are labeled in the nutrition labels on foods marketed in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
The Agency believes that this mandatory addition of the content of trans fatty acids as well as saturated fat to nutrition labels would enable consumers to make healthier food choices that would lead to lowered LDL levels and reduced risk of coronary heart disease.