Trans Fat Kills: WHO Wants to Remove It From the Food You Consume
Doughnuts, samosas, chole bhature, pizza, biscuits. Mouth-watering enough? Here’s the dampener. The trans fats in these foods may be slowly killing you.
The World Health Organization (WHO), along with non-profit Resolve to Save Lives, has launched a comprehensive plan that urges governments around the world to eliminate the use of industrially-produced artificial trans fats by 2023.
Baked and fried street and restaurant foods often contain artificial trans fat. Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats such as vanaspati ghee. WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to over 5,00,000 deaths worldwide from cardiovascular diseases.
Trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids, clogs arteries, and increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But, healthier alternatives can be used, which would not affect taste or cost of food, the WHO said in a statement on Monday.
Indian Foods Are Full of Trans Fats
A number of countries have already moved to restrict or ban trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids. But trans fats are extremely prevelant in many developing countries, like India and other South Asian countries.
In India, trans fats are present in vanaspati, which is an inexpensive cooking oil that is widely used repeatedly by restaurants and street vendors selling chole bhature, samosa, and aloo tikki. According to a survey conducted by Diabetes Foundation of India, most households also reuse oil for frying.
Experts say the process of reheating vanaspati, made from palm oil, or other vegetable oils, makes it even more lethal, and likely contributes to soaring rates of heart disease among Indians.
Most hydrogenated vegetable oils should ideally not be used to re-fry foods. Most households use oil that goes through hydrogenation that involves adding hydrogen to liquid oil to make it more solid. The menace of trans-fats is huge in India as it is cheap and easy to use.
A global study, published in The Lancet, claimed that the mortality of heart patients is the highest in Indians. In fact, Indians get a heart attack 8-10 years earlier than any other ethnic group.
Denmark and New York Are Proof That This Ban Will Help
Countries including Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, Britain and the United States have already implemented the ban. Next month, all products sold in the United States must be free of industrially produced trans fats.
New York city eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead.
This action needs to spread in low and middle-income countries like India, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.