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Saturday, 12 September 2020

Why your favourite snack may be leading you to an early grave

 A woman undergoes an examination at Railways Club during a function to mark World Heart Day, September 29, 2013.

Your favourite snack or plate of food may slowly be leading you to an early grave, a WHO report shows.

The latest report shows that at least 1.5 per cent of coronary heart disease deaths in Kenya are due to consumption of foods high in trans fatty acids.

The report, ‘Countdown to 2023: WHO Report on Global Trans Fat Elimination 2020’ was released by the World Health Organisation on Tuesday.

This is the highest rate compared to the Kenya's neighbours.

For instance, the deaths burden in South Sudan is at 1.33 per cent, 1.34 per cent in Uganda, 1.32 per cent in Tanzania, 1.35 per cent in Rwanda and 1.37 per cent in Somalia.

Eygpt and the US are the leading with 8.39 and 7.57 per cent respectively.

Intake of trans-fatty acids is associated with increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease.

Trans fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature.

This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil, so foods made with it have a longer shelf life.

Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers, because it doesn’t have to be changed as often as is the case with other oils.

They may be found in a variety of food products, such as baked goods like cookies and cakes, fried food like French fries and fried chicken, margarine, popcorn and frozen pizza.

From the report, Kenya is among 14 African countries that have adopted national plans on nutrition or Non-communicable diseases.

This means there are national policies, strategies or action plans that express a commitment to reduce industrially produced TFA in the food supply.

They include Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles and Zambia.

South Africa has been lauded as having the best-practice mandatory TFA limits in foods, oils and fats since 2011.

NCDs including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are responsible for 41 million deaths worldwide every year.

Cardiovascular disease is the main killer, accounting for nearly half of all NCD deaths, causing an estimated 17.9 million deaths every year.

In Kenya, NCDs account for 50 per cent of hospital admissions in the country. Cardiovascular diseases account for 25 per cent of the admissions and 13 per cent of deaths.

“Many of these deaths are in people under 70 years of age, and most occur in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO DG Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

“The WHO is committed to supporting countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal objective of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030.”

According to the report, dietary risks were responsible for 10 million deaths from cardiovascular disease among adults, based on the most recent global systematic evaluation of diet-related disease burden.

The global health agency in now calling on food and beverage industry groups to implement the commitments they have made to eliminate industrially produced TFA from product lines.

WHO also expects major suppliers of oils and fats to step up to remove industrially produced TFA from the products that are sold to food manufacturers globally

“Among various measures to tackle dietary risks, elimination of industrially produced TFA is a relatively straightforward, low-cost, one-time policy measure that is within reach and has significant long-term health benefits.”

The report calls for replacing industrially produced TFA with healthier oils and fats is feasible and cost-effective, and to save lives, adding that elimination of industrially produced TFA requires the involvement of manufacturers of foods, edible oils and fats

The report lauds the International Institute for Legislative Affairs, a civil society group in for having projects to assess the amount of TFA in the national food supplies, so as to promote best-practice policies, and replacement with healthier oils and fats.

“Many countries have sizeable informal food sectors that are largely unregulated and for which there may be no existing enforcement infrastructure to build on,” the report states.

In the coming year, WHO recommends that countries focus on investing in monitoring mechanisms, such as laboratory capacity to measure TFA content in foods.

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