AN ASSOCIATE director of advocacy with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) Hema Khanchandani has said Nigeria recorded about 3, 229 deaths attributed to Trans-Fat-related cardiovascular diseases in 2019.
Khanchandani spoke during a training on Trans-Fat (TFA) reporting organised by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) on Tuesday in Abuja.
She said: “In Nigeria, there were approximately 854, 000 estimated deaths in 2019, of which approximately 137, 000 were attributed to cardiovascular deaths and 3, 229 attributed to TFA-related cardiovascular deaths.”
Trans fat is described as a kind of “unhealthy substance that is made through the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils.”
The hydrogenation process, according to reports, solidifies the liquid oils and increases the shelf life of related products such as cake and other bakery products.
The chemical process also increases the flavour stability of oils and foods that contain them. It is also used for domestic purposes such as cooking and frying.
Due to the health risk, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 unveiled plans to eliminate trans-fat, also known as industrially-produced trans-fatty acids, from the global food supply.
According to the WHO, getting rid of trans-fat is key to protecting health and saving lives as the intake of hydrogenated oil causes, annually, over 500, 000 deaths from cardiovascular disease.
“Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food,” the WHO stated.
The global body further created an acronym – REPLACE – which means Review, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create and Enforce as the sustainable solution to eliminate trans-fats in food, and reduce cardiovascular diseases.
Other experts who spoke with The ICIR described it as a slow poison in the food chain.
But speaking in her presentation titled ‘GHAI Global Efforts on TFA Elimination, Challenges and Successes’, Khanchandani identified nations such as India, Brazil, Turkey and the Philippines as those that have succeeded in regulating trans-fat levels in foods.
In his remarks, an associate professor at the Bayero University Kano State Salisu Abubakar said there was a need to seek collective efforts in the elimination of trans-fat in the country, especially in diets.
Describing trans-fat as a nutrition issue, the varsity teacher encouraged the promotion of good nutrition for better health.
“When we talk of trans-fat, it has to do with the food we eat. And it is part of the nutrient that count in our food, so it is a concern to the nutrition society of Nigeria.
“Anything we can do to influence change, such as sustained practical actions to eliminate trans-fat in Nigerian food system, we would be happy to.”
On regulatory efforts, Abubakar, who is the Vice President (North) for the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) called for a legislative framework to enforce offenses bordering on trans-fat.
According to him, the National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control (NAFDAC) could enforce the law.
“If there is no law, then there is no enforcement. So, what we are pushing now is to have a law. NAFDAC is responsible for enforcing it but they have to pass it through the ministry of health to help gazetted.”
Abubakar added that over 60 per cent of Nigerians are ignorant of trans-fat and its dangerous effects.
He observed that by the time awareness is created and people fully understand the issues, members of the public can make informed decisions concerning what they consume and the kind of choices they make.