Stricter food policies could dramatically cut heart disease deaths

Br J Cardiol 2012;19:107–10 Leave a comment
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Tougher government policies on diet could prevent 30,000 cardiovascular deaths a year in the UK, according to a new study. Moves suggested include banning the use of industrial trans fats and further reductions in salt and saturated fats while encouraging greater consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The study, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, was conducted by a team led by Dr Martin O’Flaherty (University of Liverpool). They note that although the UK has made modest dietary improvements over the past decade, the current goals are “clearly insufficient longer term”.

They point out that Denmark banned trans fats in 2004, and many other countries are now also aggressively working to eliminate them. They say that “voluntary agreements” with the processed food industry generally fail, and that further improvements resembling those attained by other countries are achievable through stricter dietary policies, which will require additional regulatory, legislative, and fiscal initiatives.

The researchers modelled the effects of specific dietary changes on cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality using data obtained from recent meta-analyses. Potential reductions in mortality between 2006 and 2015 were estimated for two scenarios: modest improvements, simply assuming recent trends will continue until 2015; and more substantial but feasible reductions (already seen in several countries) in saturated fats, trans fats, and salt consumption, together with increased fruit and vegetable intake.

The first scenario would result in around 12,500 fewer CVD deaths per year, the authors say. The more aggressive improvements could save many more lives, ranging from 13,300 to 74,900 fewer CVD deaths per year (average 30,000), they claim.