Everybody knows that trans fat are really bad for your health. But do you know what is a trans-fat? Which food has a high quotient of trans fat? What it can leads up to? And what are the steps being taken to eliminate trans fats?

Background

Globally, excessive intake of trans fats are responsible for more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year. WHO report has revealed that people living in high income countries have more protection and policies on trans fat than lower income countries. They are often left behind.

Currently, 40 countries are working together to practice trans-fat elimination, covering 1.4 million of population globally. Of this, 940 million people resides in high income countries. Whereas, 57 countries are following the mandatory trans-fatty acid policies covering 3.2 billion. This effort is in lieu of overarching global goal to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat by 2023.[1]

According to Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Second Amendment Regulations, 2021, India have also passed the best practice trans-fat elimination policies. Currently, 10 out of the 15 countries estimated to have the highest burden of industrially produced trans fat have not adopted a best-practice trans fat policy: Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Bhutan, Nepal and Australia.

image 1: Map of policy implementation of elimination of trans-fatty acids of various countries; source: WHO Report on Global Trans Fat Elimination, 2021

In  2011, India has first passed a regulation  on Trans-fatty acids (TFA) limiting  to 10% in oils and fats that was further reduced to 5% in 2015. However, from the year 2022, India has become the first lower middle income country with best practice policy in place.

What are fats?

Our body need some amount of fat for a balanced diet. Fats are important to absorb some important vitamins like vitamin A, D and E. However, when our body cells do not use fats or fats not converted to energy, they are converted into body fats. Some carbs and proteins are also sometimes converted into body fats.

There are two kinds of fats: Saturated and Unsaturated. Saturated fats are those which are found in many foods (sweet & savoury).It is a type of dietary fat (something you get from having certain types of food). The source of saturated fats are meat & dairy products, palm oil and coconut oil.

Foods likes meat fats, sausages, pies, butter, ghee, cheese, ice-cream, cakes, etc have high levels of saturated fats.

Why are cholesterol related to saturated fats?

Cholestrol is also a fatty substance mostly made by the body in the liver. It is then carried in blood as low density lipoprotein (bad) and high density lipoprotein (good). Now eating too much of saturated fats can raise bad cholesterol and hereby your risk of heart disease and stroke.

What are trans fats?

Trans fatty acids are commercially produced when unsaturated fatty acids undergo hydrogenation.

This process of fat refinement involves the addition of hydrogen molecules to oils in order to increase their melting point, this improves their physical and functional properties stability and utility.

In natural form , trans fats are found in food like meat and dairy products. It is also found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. They are primarily used for deep frying and as an ingredient in baked goods. First introduced in early 20th century as a replacement to butter, it is not a natural part of the human diet. List of hydrogenated oil: Peanut, Corn, cottonseed, Avocado, Olive, Soybean, Palm oil

Trans fat can raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Every year, Approximately 5,40,000 deaths can be attributable to intake of industrial produced trans fatty acids. The average consumption of trans fat globally was estimated to be 1.4% of total energy in 2010. The pattern of consumption of TFA in Asia is unclear due to unavailable data. However, countries like Denmark has been monitoring the trans fat content for the past 30 years and virtual elimination of industrially produced trans fat has been achieved.[2]

Trans fat increases the risk of death from any disease by 34%,coronary heart disease deaths by 28% and coronary heart disease by 21%.

REPLACE ACTION PACKAGE

To make people aware of the harmful effects of trans fat , WHO has provided REPLACE a action package in 2018. This package is a practical, 6 step package calls for the promotion of use and consumption of healthier fats and oils and elimination of industrially produced trans fats by 2023 creating awareness among policy makers, producers, suppliers and the public.

India towards India@75: Freedom from trans fat by 2022

India has adopted a triple action strategy for reducing trans fat consumption – enforcement, engagement and awareness back in the year 2018.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has enacted several recent restrictions and a 360 degree approach on trans fats, limiting industrial TFA to not more than 2% in all fats and oil by January 2022 . It sees industrial TFA (iTFA) as modifiable risk factors to prevent heart diseases. Further, in 2018, FSSAI has released one video as a public service announcement to create awareness about the harmful effects of trans fat Heart Attack Rewind (English) | FSSAI - YouTube

image 2: Trans Fats Free Logo introduced in 2020 by FSSAI

In 2020, FSSAI has introduced Trans Fats Free Logo to be used by all food manufacturers to declare TFA content on nutrition labels.

According to 2017 estimates, every year more than 1.5 million deaths in India is attributed to coronary heart disease, of which nearly 5% (71,000) are due to trans fats intake.

It is also very important to ensure that school going children and young people develop a healthy eating practice.  There is a proposed restriction on  foods having high saturated fats or trans fats or added sugar or sodium in school campuses or within 50 meters of the schools. However, it is not an easy thing to implement.  It is no doubt that Covid-19 has changed our eating behaviours to a certain extent. People are now conscious about healthy eating practices. Still, there is a long way in making a TFA free India.


[1] Countries with regulations protecting people from industrially produced trans fat tripled over the past year (who.int)

[2] https://www.bing.com/search?q=demark+has+achieved+trand+fat+elimination&cvid=b8b74e5cce7740f889c5ae96185f09e9&aqs=edge..69i57.15638j0j1&pglt=931&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=HCTS