A total ban of trans fats in processed foods might prevent or postpone around 7,200 deaths from coronary heart disease over the next five years.
The research, which was led by Dr Kirk Allen at Lancaster University, found that an outright ban on trans fats in processed foods would also save the NHS in England around £265m a year.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fats, added to foodstuffs to enhance their taste and extend their shelf-life, which increase levels of LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and decrease HDL cholesterol, or ‘good’ cholesterol.
Professor Peter Diggle, of Lancaster Medical School, who co-led the study, said: “The risk to any individual’s health from consuming trans-fats is very small. Nevertheless, the principle that trans fats should not be added to processed food appears to be widely accepted, and the empirical evidence is that the best way to achieve the desired result is to regulate.”
The researchers also evaluated other policy options to reduce consumption of trans fats, finding that better food labelling or banning trans fats from restaurants and fast food outlets could save between 1,800 and 3,500 deaths.
Key factors such as age, sex, and socioeconomic status were taken into account in their computer modelling.
The research was led by Dr Kirk Allen while he was at Lancaster University, and was co-authored by researchers at Oxford and Liverpool universities. The full study can be found here.