Have you ever checked the ingredient list on your favorite snack or fast food item and noticed the word “trans fat”? Did you know that trans fats are a major concern for public health experts and have been linked to heart disease and other health problems?
Yes, it is true that trans fats have no essential role in the human body functions and are not required in the diet. Trans fats are formed through partial hydrogenation of oils, which turns liquid oils into solid fats and increases their shelf life. High consumption of trans fat raises LDL cholesterol levels, while lowering the HDL cholesterol levels. This imbalance can lead to build up of fatty deposits in the arteries, increasing the cardiovascular problems. Recognizing the health risks associated with trans fats, the WHO [World Health Organization] has recommended limiting trans fat consumption to less that 1% of total energy intake.
Trans fats are mainly found in processed foods such as fried foods, baked goods (cakes, cookies, and crackers), margarine, shortening, and other snack foods. Fast food chains are also a major source of trans fats. Small amounts of trans fats can be found naturally in some animal products such as milk, cheese, and meat. However, the amount of natural trans fats is very low compared to the amount found in processed foods. There are several healthier alternatives to trans fats that can be used in cooking and baking, including olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil. These oils are rich in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which are beneficial for health.
Health Risks Associated with Trans Fats:
Trans fats have been linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. They increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood and decrease the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, leading to a higher risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that a diet high in trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease by up to 21%, while another study found that replacing trans fats with healthier fats could reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 53%. Trans fats have also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. A study conducted in India found that people who consumed a diet high in trans fats were at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who consumed a diet low in trans fats. In addition to these health risks, trans fats have also been linked to other health problems, such as obesity, inflammation, and certain types of cancer.
Regulating the consumption of Trans Fat
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has taken steps to eliminate trans fats from the food supply in India. To achieve this, the FSSAI has set guidelines for the food industry, raised awareness among the public, and promoted the use of healthier oils and fats. The FSSAI has also conducted a survey of food products for the presence of Trans Fat to create base line data and also to establish monitoring mechanism for achieving regulatory level
According to the regulation, all food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient shall not contain industrial trans fatty acids more than 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product on and from 1st January 2022. Claiming Trans Fat Free: A direction issued on 22 July 2019 states that the food establishments that use trans-fat-free fats/oil and do not have trans fat more than 0.2g per 100g of food in compliance with the Food Safety and Standards (Advertising and Claims Regulations 2018) can display the Trans Fat-Free logo in their outlets on their food products. The use of the logo is voluntary, but in case of non-compliance, recourse shall be taken as per the provision of the FSS Act 2006 and rules therein.
FSSAI Efforts towards Eliminating Trans Fats
The FSSAI has taken several steps to eliminate trans fats from the food supply in India. In 2018, the FSSAI set a target to eliminate trans fats from all food products in the country by 2022. To achieve this, the FSSAI has set guidelines for the food industry and raised awareness among the public.The FSSAI has set a maximum limit of 2% by weight of the total oils/fats present in the product for trans fats in all food products. This limit ensures that all food products comply with the guidelines and that the public is protected from the harmful effects of trans fats.
Promoting Healthier Oils and Fats: The FSSAI has been promoting the use of healthier oils and fats in the food industry. Some of the healthier oils and fats that are recommended by the FSSAI include olive oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, and sunflower oil. These oils are lower in trans fats and higher in unsaturated fats, which are beneficial for health.
Awareness Campaigns: The FSSAI has been conducting awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of trans fats and the importance of consuming a healthy and balanced diet. The campaign includes advertisements on TV, radio, and social media, as well as educational materials distributed in schools and workplaces. Reading food labels is an important way to identify the presence of trans fats in processed foods. Trans fats are often listed on the label under the term “partially hydrogenated oils” or “hydrogenated oils.” It is important to check the ingredients list and avoid products that contain trans fats.
Working with Stakeholders:
The FSSAI has been working closely with the food industry to develop strategies to reduce the use of trans fats in their products. This includes providing technical assistance to food manufacturers to help them reformulate their products and replace trans fats with healthier oils and fats. Providing necessary guidelines for food laboratories analyzing Trans Fat, including methods of analysis. For the consumers awareness to help check the nutrition label for its trans fat content and trans fat free logo. Urging all the Chefs, Halwais, Bakeries, FBOs to Purchase only packaged fats/ oils with declared nutrition value for trans fats content.
Impact of Eliminating Trans Fats
Eliminating trans fats from the food supply can have a significant impact on public health. A study conducted in the United States found that a nationwide ban on trans fats could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
Several countries have taken steps to eliminate trans fats from their food supply. In 2018, Denmark became the first country in the world to ban industrial trans fats, followed by several other countries including Switzerland, Austria, and Hungary. The World Health Organization has called on all countries to eliminate trans fats from their food supply by 2023.
Quick Reference Links:
1. FSSAI Press release on Trans Fat
2. Health Minister Launches FSSAI’s ‘Trans Fat Free’ Logo
3. FSSAI Directions Regarding Enforcement of Maximum Limits of Trans Fatty Acids in Vegetable Oil and Fat Products
4. FSSAI Strives for India to Obtain Freedom from Fats by 2022
5. FSSAI FAQs on Oils and Fats
8. Systematic review of dietary trans-fat reduction interventions: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710076/
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