Limiting trans fats in the diet can contribute to harm reduction

Limiting trans fats in the diet can contribute to harm reduction

Majority of the packaged foods we buy are rich in trans fats and a gateway to several health issues

New Delhi, 12th February 2019: The World Health Organization recently urged governments across the world to eliminate the use of trans fats from global food supplies by 2023. In India, the FSSAI has proposed to limit the maximum amount of trans fat content in vegetable oils, vegetable fat and hydrogenated vegetable oil to 2% by weight. This is part of the country’s mission towards making India trans-fat-free (< 0.5%) by 2022. The current permitted level of trans fat is 5% in India.

Eliminating or reducing trans fat from the diet is a harm reduction strategy. Adopting this will ensure that any potential health complications such as heart problems are averted, especially in people with a family history of such issues. The first-ever harm reduction conference held on 30th January 2019 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi came out with some recommendations in this regard.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “A majority of the population continues to consume trans fats in some form without understanding the potential health complications it can lead to. Trans fats increase the shelf life of packaged foods, and restaurants like to use it as oil for deep frying because it doesn’t need to be changed as often as other oils. Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This changes the chemical structure of the oil, turning it from a liquid into a solid. The process involves high pressure, hydrogen gas, and a metal catalyst – and the end-product is highly unsuitable for human consumption. They boost LDL as much as saturated fats do. They also lower protective HDL, rev up inflammation and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.”

Most commercially catered food prepared from trans fats are tasty and often people overeat by at least 500 calories because of the taste provided by the hydrogenated oils.

Adding further, Dr Rajiv Khosla Sr Gastroenterologist , said, “Foods rich in trans fats tend to be high in added sugar and calories. Over time, these can pave way for weight gain and even Type 2 diabetes. The phrase ‘partially hydrogenated’ on the list of packaged food is an indication of the presence of trans fat and should clearly be avoided or reduced.”

Some recommendations

  • Choose foods lower in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
  • Replace saturated and trans fats in their diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Some sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.
  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
  • Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain omega–3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full–fat dairy products, like whole milk.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.