GLOBAL economy loses at least $3.5 trillion to malnutrition yearly, the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) disclosed on Friday.
It also noted that asides malnutrition, unhealthy foods containing trans-fat (TFA) accounts for at least 500,000 deaths globally.
In Nigeria, there is an increasing rate of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death, which are not unconnected with the consumption of vegetable oil that have high trans fats content.
The Project Adviser for TFA Elimination, NHED, Dr. Jerome Mafeni, made this known in Abuja during a press briefing to celebrate this year’s World Food Day organised by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA).
He noted that trans fats, which are fats produced from the industrial process of hydrogenation, are used in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks and certain cooking oils and fats that are used at home, in restaurants and in street foods.
He said: “The impact of malnutrition in all its forms, undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, as well as overweight and obesity on the global economy, is estimated at $3.5 trillion per year (FAO 2020). It is therefore important on this World Food Day that we also speak out about the importance of increasing access to healthy and nutritious food for all, including food that is free of toxic chemicals such as trans fatty acids (also referred to as trans fats for short).
“Trans fats are fats produced from the industrial process of hydrogenation, whereby molecular hydrogen (H2) is added to vegetable oil, converting liquid fat to a semi-solid and stable fat that have a long shelf life. Food products containing unsaturated fats are susceptible to rancidity with attendant unpleasant taste and odour as a manifestation of their short shelf life.
“Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the world’s leading cause of death. In 2016, they were responsible for almost 40 million deaths which is approximately three quarters of all deaths.
“Cardiovascular (heart) disease was the main killer, accounting for nearly half of all NCD deaths. Many of these deaths were in people under the age of 70 years, and most occurred in low and middle-income countries.
Cardiovascular diseases are largely preventable by eliminating tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, adopting a healthy diet and being physically active. Industrially produced trans-fatty acids (TFAs), causing heart disease and death, are not necessary in food and can be eliminated.
“Industrially produced TFAs are used in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks and certain cooking oils and fats that are used at home in restaurants and in street foods. Elimination of industrially produced TFAs from food is feasible and some countries are taking action, although until recently this had been mostly in wealthy countries.”
He therefore urged the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities to expedite action on the ongoing process of enacting relevant regulations for the control and elimination of trans fats from the country’s food system.
The Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, in his address, stated that Nigeria with a huge and vulnerable population must not take the back seat in the global war against trans-fats and must set the pace on the regulation of this silent killer on the African continent.