LONDON — The World Health Organization on May 14 released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide that the agency is urging companies to consult to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

REPLACE is an acronym for six strategic actions WHO would like to see carried out. The six actions are:

  • Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  • Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  • Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  • Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers and the public.
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

WHO estimates that trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease every year.

“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ph.D., director-general of WHO. “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans fat and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease.”

The initiative to eliminate trans-fatty acids from the global food supply is part of WHO’s broader strategic plan, called the draft 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13). GPW13 is expected to guide the work of WHO in 2019-23 and will be discussed in greater detail at the 71st World Health Assembly that will be held May 21-26 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?” Dr. Tedros asked. “The world is now embarking on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, using it as a driver for improved access to healthy food and nutrition. WHO is also using this milestone to work with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats.”

WHO recommends that the total trans fat intake be limited to less than 1 percent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 grams per day with a 2,000-calorie diet.

“Trans fats increases levels of LDL-cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of HDL-cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile,” according to WHO. “Diets high in trans fat increase heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent. Replacing trans fats with unsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk of heart disease, in part, by ameliorating the negative effects of trans fats on blood lipids. In addition, there are indications that trans fat may increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.”