Banning Trans Fats Would Save 500,000 Lives a Year, WHO Says

There are alternatives to trans fats that are so much less harmful, and there’s good evidence that banning trans fats leads to public health improvements.

The use of trans fats leads to about 500,000 cardiovascular disease deaths each year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

These products are added to fried foods, baked goods, and snack products, and cause levels of bad cholesterol in blood to spike.

Now the WHO and governments around the world are cracking down. On Monday, the WHO announced a plan calling for governments to ban industrially-produced trans fats within five years.

“Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), now president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, said in the WHO announcement statement.

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In 2001, the Danish Nutrition Council suggested the government limit trans fatsin foods to improve cardiovascular health. In 2003, a Danish law that limited the amounts of these fats in food was passed.

It worked, with death rates from cardiovascular disease falling faster there than in comparable countries.

Other European countries followed Denmark’s lead. Then, in 2006, New York City passed a law banning trans fats, phasing them out of the city by the summer of 2008.

The prompted all kinds of “Nanny Bloomberg” headlines referencing the mayor at the time. But it worked, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology, reducing heart attack and stroke rates in the city.

Under the Obama administration, the FDA finally followed suit nationwide in 2015, with that ban going into full effect next month.

Trans fats are still commonly sold in countries throughout South Asia and Africa, where weaker regulations and stronger pressure by food producers have kept partially hydrogenated oils in circulation.

The WHO’s new policy can’t actually ban trans fats in these countries. But the hope is that the guidelines will encourage governments to enact these bans.

Scientists Discover Flies Carry More Diseases Than Suspected

The diseases linked to the several hundred bacteria flies were found to carry include pneumonia and stomach bugs. Be careful clicking the link if you’d rather not look at closer images of flies.

An important point here though is to remember this when there are flies buzzing around someone precious to you with fragile health. Losing someone close to you can truly be a very unfortunate experience.

The house fly and the blowfly together harbour more than 600 different bacteria, according to a DNA analysis.

Many are linked with human infections, including stomach bugs, blood poisoning and pneumonia.

Flies can spread bacteria from place-to-place on their legs, feet and wings, experiments show. In fact, every step taken by a fly can transfer live bacteria, researchers said.

”People had some notion that there were pathogens that were carried by flies but had no idea of the extent to which this is true and the extent to which they are transferred,” Prof Donald Bryant of Penn State University, a co-researcher on the study, told BBC News.

DNA sequencing techniques were used to study the collection of microbes found in and on the bodies of the house fly (Musca domestica) and the blowfly (Chrysomya megacephala).

The house fly, which is ubiquitous around the world, was found to harbour 351 types of bacteria. The blowfly, which is found in warmer climates, carried 316. A large number of these bacteria were carried by both types of fly.

The researchers, who published their study in the journal Scientific Reports, say flies may have been overlooked by public health officials as a source of disease outbreaks.

“We believe that this may show a mechanism for pathogen transmission that has been overlooked by public health officials, and flies may contribute to the rapid transmission of pathogens in outbreak situations,” said Prof Bryant.

WHO Issues Guidelines on Antibiotic Use to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

The WHO notes that the costs of losing antibiotic effectiveness will be literally worth tens of trillions of dollars.

To address the major and growing global threat that stems from rampant overuse and misuse of antibiotics in agriculture, the World Health Organization (WHO) this week issued its first-ever formal guidelines instructing farmers to stop using so many antimicrobials in healthy livestock.

“If no action is taken today, by 2050, almost all current antibiotics will be ineffective in preventing and treating human disease, and the costs of losing these drugs will exceed U.S. $100 trillion in terms of national productivity,” the U.N. agency predicts in a related policy brief (pdf).

David Wallinga, a senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said the guidelines “may be a game-changer in this fight,” because they call for “fairly significant changes to how many of the world’s biggest food-animal producers now operate, including the U.S.”—but “as important as these guidelines are, they are just that—guidelines. To help curb resistance, individual companies and/or countries actually have to take action on them.”

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The WHO guidelines reflect growing concerns about the amount of antibiotics used in agriculture, and what that means for both humans and animals in the long term.

As Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the WHO’s Department of Food Safety and Zoonosesn, explains: “the volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin,” and “scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns that “a lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak.”

“Driven by the need to mitigate the adverse human health consequences of use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals,” the guidelines (pdf) include four recommendations:

  • An overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals;
  • Complete restriction of use of these antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotions;
  • Complete restriction of use for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed; and
  • Antimicrobials classified by the WHO as “highest priority critically important” for human medicine should not ever be used to treat food-producing animals, while antimicrobials classified as “critically important” should not be used to control the dissemination of an infection within a group of food-producing animals.

Since 2005, WHO has published a list of antimicrobials categorized as “important,” “highly important,” or “critically important” to human medicine, with the goal of preserving the effectiveness of available antibiotics. The latest revision (pdf) was published in April 2017.

The guidelines also feature two best practice statements. In the first, the WHO declares that “any new class of antimicrobials or new antimicrobial combination developed for use in humans will be considered critically important for human medicine unless otherwise categorized by WHO.”

The second statement advises that “medically important antimicrobials that are not currently used in food production should not be used in future production including food-producing animals or plants,” acknowledging that although the guidelines focus on livestock rather than plants, using antibiotics on plants also contributes to antimicrobial resistance that can be transferred to humans.

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The guidelines were released just ahead of U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week—an annual effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to raise awareness about antibiotic resistance—which begins November 13. The CDC found that as of 2013, more than 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and about 23,000 of those people die because of the infection.