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What are Trans Fats and why they are harmful?

Recently in the news that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan were among countries that need to act urgently against trans-fat.

According to WHO, 11 out of 15 countries with the most coronary heart disease deaths are caused due to Trans fats and it is necessary to take actions to eliminate the substances.

What are Trans Fats?

Trans Fats or Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs) are a form of unsaturated fat and they come in both natural and artificial form. It is said that they are the most harmful type of fats which have an adverse effect on the human body than any other dietary constituent.

Therefore, we can say that in our diet they may be present as Artificial TFAs or Natural TFAs. When hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats and resembles like pure ghee or butter, artificial TFAs are formed.

The major source of artificial TFAs that are present in our diet are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/margarine while the natural TFAs are present in small amounts in meats and dairy products.

In the crust, we can say that Trans fats are found in two forms natural and artificial. Natural occur in some animal products and are not harmful on the other hand artificial are hydrogenated vegetable oils and have serious health consequences.

What are the harmful effects of Trans Fats?

– Other than saturated fats, TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease. Saturated fats increase the total cholesterol levels but TFAs with total cholesterol levels also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which help us in protecting us against heart disease.

– Increasing the consumption of Trans fats leads to the risk of the development of heart disease and stroke.

– It also increases the risk of developing obesity, type 2type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers, etc.

– Several studies indicate that trans fats increase inflammation, mainly in people with excess weight or obesity.

– Trans fats may damage the inner lining of the blood vessels.

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How to avoid trans fats?

While reading labels of the food can be a helpful step to ensure that you are minimising the intake of trans fat and the optimal option is to cut processed foods out of daily routine entirely.

Why they are being used longer?

Trans Fatty Acids containing oils can be preserved for longer. They give the food desired shape and texture. It is an easy way or an easy substitute of ‘Pure Ghee’. Comparatively, they are fats lower in cost and thus add to profit or saving.

According to WHO:

– Trans-fats that are produced industrially are found in hardened vegetable fats like margarine and ghee. They are also present in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods.

– Due to trans-fats around 500,000 deaths are reported because of coronary heart disease every year across the world. Nearly 15 countries account for two-thirds of the deaths linked to the substance.

– Trans-fats are used by manufacturers because of its longer shelf life and also it is cheaper than others may be healthier choices that do not affect taste or cost.

– Till now, 58 countries introduced laws to protect 3.2 billion people from the substance by the end of 2021. But more than 100 countries still needed to take any action to stop the use of trans fats or remove trans-fats from their food supply chains.

– It has also seen that lower-middle-income countries or low-income countries have yet not implemented best-practice policies. On the other hand, 7 of their upper-middle-income and 33 of their high-income counterparts did so.

What are the efforts that have been taken to reduce the intake of trans-fats?

– In 2016, FSSAI placed a regulation that the permissible quantum of trans-fats in edible fats and oils are from 10% to 5%.

– In 2018, a replaced campaign has been launched by the WHO for the elimination of trans-fats at the global level in industrially produced edible oils by 2023.

– FSSAI has set a deadline as 2022.

– FSSAI plans to cap TFA at 3% by 2021 and 2% by 2022 in edible fats and oils.

– A “Trans Fat-Free” logo is also launched by FSSAI for voluntary labelling to promote TFA-free products. The label can be used by bakeries, local food outlets and shops for preparations containing TFA not exceeding 0.2 per 100 g/ml.

Scientists of Pakistan have reiterated calls for better regulatory measures to control trans fatty acid levels in local food and beverage products as some findings of TFA was found to be very prevalent in the food supply but rarely labelled correctly.

Daily Gist of ‘The Hindu’, ‘PIB’, ‘Indian Express’ and Other Newspapers: 15 September, 2020

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