A group of doctors, lawyers and a lawmaker expressed alarm over the rising incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) among younger Filipinos.
In a press conference to commemorate World Heart Day on September 29, the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) said that Filipinos who suffer from stroke and other heart conditions are getting younger.
“Heart problems are no longer just old man’s disease,” said Dr. Luigi Segundo, Director of PHA. “There is an alarming trend of Filipinos in their thirties having premature heart attack and stroke,” he added.
PHA linked CVDs to the high intake of trans fatty acids and a sedentary lifestyle, among other factors. Industrially-produced trans fatty acids or iTFAs are a toxic compound added by food manufacturers to their products to prolong their shelf life. Margarine, baked goods, and instant coffee are just some of the food items known to have high traces of iTFA.
Heart disease kills 345 Filipinos every day
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Atty. Ma-anne Rosales-Sto. Domingo of public interest law group ImagineLaw said that CVDs like coronary heart disease and stroke remain to be the top killer in the Philippines. “Every day, 345 Filipinos are killed by heart disease,” she said. “Eliminating trans fat in the Philippine food supply should be a priority to break this deadly chain and improve Filipinos’ heart health,” Atty. Rosales-Sto. Domingo added.
Dr. John Juliard Go, National Professional Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines, said that iTFA causes heart disease and deaths, and has no known health benefit. Trans fat elimination will save lives and prevent CVDs, according to the WHO.
“Trans fat elimination is a multi-sectoral work, and we encourage all stakeholders to support and work together to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Go urged.
Trans Fat Free Philippines Law pushed
Early this year, Laguna 1st District Rep. Ann Matibag filed House Bill No. 1485 or the Trans Fat Free Philippines Bill that will prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of processed and prepackaged foods with high trans fat content.
“The bill will also provide for training for food manufacturers to allow them to switch to healthier fats and oils, and for research on other healthy alternatives,” said Rep. Matibag.
Counterpart measures were also filed in the Senate by Senators Nancy Binay, Risa Hontiveros, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, Jr., and Joel Villanueva. Four other similar measures were filed in the House of Representatives. All bills are pending in their respective Committees on Health.
ImagineLaw urged the House and Senate leadership to act on the said measures. “We urge the health committees of both chambers to set the hearing for the trans fat elimination bills, as soon as possible,” Atty. Rosales-Sto. Domingo said.
“The time to act is now – by removing trans fatty acids from the food [Filipinos] will eat, the risk of them contracting heart disease will be significantly reduced,” Rep. Matibag concluded.