CAPPA, health experts raise alarm over rise in cardiovascular disease

By Daniel Kanu

Nigerians have been warned to desist from the consumption of foods high in trans-fats as some are described as collection of poison.

The Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Comrade Akinbode Oluwafemi, who gave the advice in Lagos, said that the consumption of such foods largely contributes to the increase in cardiovascular disease.

He said that eliminating trans-fat was key to protecting health and saving lives.

According to him, “consuming healthy and safe food is non-negotiable.”

He pointed out that cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly half of all Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) deaths, stressing, “Non-communicable diseases are the world’s leading cause of death but are largely preventable if we adopt healthy lifestyles and healthy diet.”

He explained that trans-fats were fats produced from the industrial process of hydrogenation so that they have long shelf life.

On regulation of trans-fats, Akinbode said that his outfit was collaborating with NAFDAC on the issue.

“We are also happy to announce that at a recent meeting with the top officials of NAFDAC, its Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, announced that the draft regulations will go through some processes before its approval by the board and assured that in no distant time the approval and final gazetting of the regulations will occur,” he said.

Corroborating, a Health expert, Dr. Jerome O. Mafeni, the Technical Adviser, TFA-free Nigeria Campaign, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), said that trans-fats (TFAs) have no known health benefits and could readily and safely be replaced in foods without impacting their consistency and taste.

He said that small and medium-sized oil, fat, and food producers often lack the capacity and know-how to replace trans-fats acids (TFAs), stressing, “regulations targeting TFAs should take this into account, for example, through long enough transition periods and technical support.”

Mafeni also advised that the replacement of TFAs should mostly be with unsaturated fats.

“Replacement with butter is not ideal as it contains a lot of saturated fats, linked to raised cholesterol levels and heart disease.

“Replacement of TFAs with palm oil is also an issue of concern because of its high saturated fat content. Unfortunately, it is often used as replacement oil because it is very cheap and because many countries have policies in place to increase palm oil production and sales,” he said.

He therefore called for the sustenance of the momentum and interest generated among key government stakeholders and policy-makers through continued and constant engagement.

Also, he advocated for work to continue assessing the level of TFA in Nigerian foods to build support for policy action and establish a baseline for measuring progress over time.