Alumnus collaborated with WHO to fight trans fats

Commercially-produced donutsWalisundera M. Nimal Ratnayake (MSc’78, PhD’80), in collaboration with the World Health Organization, developed a comprehensive global protocol for measuring trans fatty acids in foods. The protocol has a worldwide impact as the World Health Organization is appealing to its member countries to eliminate trans fatty acids originating from partially hydrogenated oils (also known as industrially produced trans fatty acids) from the global food supply by 2023. Member countries are recommended to use the protocol in their efforts of monitoring and surveillance of the content of industrially produced trans fatty acids in processed and ready-to-serve foods sold in their countries.

Regular consumption of trans fatty acids increases the blood level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease. Consumption of trans fatty acids should be less than 1% of total energy intake.

His research, demonstrating the high content of industrially produced trans fatty acids in processed foods as well as in human milk in Canada, led to enactment by the Canadian Government of mandatory declaration of trans fatty acid content in food labels in 2005 and banning the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food preparations in 2018. Processed and ready-to-serve foods currently sold in Canada are free of industrially produced trans fatty acids. But many countries, especially emerging market economies, and less developed countries, still use partially hydrogenated oils in various food preparations.

Dr. Ratnayake worked as a research scientist at Health Canada and as Head of the Metabolic Section (Nutrition Research Division) of Health Canada for 30 years and retired in 2016.