On World Health Day, which is celebrated on the 7th of April, I joined my colleagues in a Tweet Chat on Trans Fats to raise awareness on there health effects and advocate for enactment of appropriate policies. The Global NCD Alliance notes that trans fats are the worst type of fat to eat. Most trans-fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become semi-solid at room temperature. It is also known as industrially-produced trans fatty acid (iTFA) or partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), which you may see on the ingredients list of the foods you buy. Trans fats have been found to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health issues, leading to the World Health Organization calling for their elimination from our food supply by 2023.
In Kenya, the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA) (where I am a Digital Advocate) is leading the Trans Fat elimination campaign. The campaign, currently in its second phase, seeks to create awareness on the deleterious effects of this type of fat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats raise “bad” cholesterol, causing it to build up in the arteries, and also lowers “good” cholesterol, which helps remove excess cholesterol from the body. It is to be noted that Trans Fats have no known health benefits and are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease deaths (CVD) worldwide, estimated to cause around 540,000 deaths every year.
During the Tweet Chat, we highlighted the need for trans-fat policies to be enacted in Kenya and in East African countries. We petitioned the countries in the East Africa Region to enact appropriate Trans Fat policies. The Global NCD Alliance estimates that iTFA elimination in all countries around the world could save 17 million lives by 2040. That is why, to facilitate the removal of iTFA from the global food supply by 2023, WHO launched the REPLACE initiative in 2018. REPLACE is the first global initiative that aims to eliminate an NCD risk factor.
iTFA elimination is a priority target of WHO’s Strategic Plan 2019-2023 and is deemed by WHO to be a cost-effective and feasible intervention (a so-called ‘best buy’), recommended for implementation in all countries to prevent non-communicable diseases.
The campaign was a huge success, generating over 1.2 million impressions on Twitter within a 12-hour period. The hashtags #TransFatFreeKenya and #TransFatFreeEAC trended for over 8 hours in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, drawing attention to the need for increased awareness of the dangers of trans fats and the urgent need to eliminate them from our diets.
Follows me on Twitter for more information on Trans Fat and learn more about the campaign.