The Health Department and Food Safety wings in collaboration are ready to launch an initiative to impose important dietary guidelines, including the reduction of trans-fatty acids (TFAs), salt and sugar in the commercially available foods in India. This initiative has the technical support from the World Bank, WHO and, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). It is a well-known fact that an unhealthy diet increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and further leads to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The non-communicable diseases (NCDs) reduce life-quality, ultimately increasing the death rates.

Before going into details about trans fat, let’s understand what trans fat is?

Trans fatty acids (TFA) or more commonly known as Trans Fats are the unsaturated fatty acids that contain at least one non-conjugated double bond in trans configuration (a type of chemical arrangement), which results in a slight change in the arrangement of bonds. This alteration changes the whole metabolic pathway. The major process contributing in the formation of TFA is hydrogenation. Apart from this, thermal processing engages in refining or frying that leads to the formation of TFA.

Why is Trans Fat bad?

Consumption of industrially produced TFA is strongly associated with a high risk of coronary heart disease. In 2010, there were more than 500,000 deaths due to excess consumption of trans fats. TFA increases the level of unhealthy cholesterol LDL while decreasing the level of healthy cholesterol HDL. It leads to the clogging of arteries with an increase in the risk of atherosclerosis and CHD (coronary heart disease). It is scientifically proven that TFA might increase inflammation, endothelial dysfunction with insulin resistance.

Facts about TFAs:

  • Industrially manufactured trans fat increase the death burden worldwide.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases associated with TFA consumption are a leading cause of deaths worldwide.
  • Elimination of TFAs from diet and inclusion of healthier options like oil rich in unsaturated fats can decrease the death rates. As a reference, Denmark banned all the trans fats in 2003 and within three years the death rates due to CVD’s dipped.

Current situations of India:

According to WHO trans fat intake should be limited to less than 1% of the total energy intake and declared the elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. Indian regulatory body FSSAI has suggested to limit TFA limit in food to 2% and eliminate trans fats from commercially available food products by 2022.

In India, FSSAI regulation has made it mandatory for the manufacturers to mention the type of fatty acids or cholesterol amount in mg on the labelling.

WHO worldwide promoted ‘REPLACE’ plan to accelerate restriction and bans on trans fats by providing the government with six steps to eliminate the harmful components.

Review dietary sources of trans fats and assess the landscape for required policy change

Promote the use and consumption of healthier fats and oils to replace industrially produced trans fat.

Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate trans fats

Assess and monitor changes in industrially produced trans fat consumption in the population and their replacement in food.

Create awareness about the negative health impacts of trans fat among policymakers, producers, suppliers and consumers.

Enforce the implication and compliance of policies and regulations.

How to reduce trans fat during food preparation:

  • Avoid the use of Vanaspati in any food preparation.
  • Do not heat the oil for a longer duration while deep frying.
  • Do not reuse fats or oils after frying.
  • Do not repeatedly reheat the same oil.
  • Avoid food item with Vanaspati or margarine.
  • Avoid using instant food mix as it may contain a high amount of trans fat.

The detrimental effects of trans fats are beyond doubt. Prolonged consumption might make us prone to severe cardiovascular and other metabolic disorders. Hence, start making changes in your eating habits it is never too late when it comes to taking care of your health.

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