Trans Fat Kills: WHO Wants to Remove It From the Food You Consume
Artificial trans fat are present in baked or friend foods produced by industrial manufacturers and street vendors.
Artificial trans fat are present in baked or friend foods produced by industrial manufacturers and street vendors.(Photo: iStock)

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 is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there is no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed to it.
Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO, Resolve to Save Lives

Also Read: Heart Disease Can Affect the Young & Healthy – What Should You Do?

Baked and fried street and restaurant foods often contain artificial trans fat.
Baked and fried street and restaurant foods often contain artificial trans fat.
(Photo: iStock)

Trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids, clogs arteries, and increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

“If the world replaces trans fats, people won’t taste the difference, food won’t cost more, but your heart will know the difference,” says Dr Frieden, who has been the driving force behind this ban.

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.

WHO calls on governments to use the ‘REPLACE’ action package to eliminate trans fats from the food supply. Implementing the six strategic actions will represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Indian Foods Are Full of Trans Fats

Most Indian households also reuse oil for frying.
Most Indian households also reuse oil for frying.
(Photo: iStock)

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.

(Photo: iStock)
Consuming trans fats leads to cardiovascular diseases, which is the leading cause of death in India, with 1.7 million lives lost to heart disease in the country every year.

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.

Also Read: Heart Attack, The Two Words We All Fear, Explained

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.

In Denmark, the first country to eliminate artificial trans fats from its food supply in 2004, the trans-fat content of foods declined dramatically, which led to cardiovascular disease deaths declining more quickly, the WHO statement said.
Consuming trans fats leads to cardiovascular diseases.
Consuming trans fats leads to cardiovascular diseases.
(Photo: iStock)

New York city eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead.

If implemented, this trans fat ban will help in reducing the prevalence of a major cause of death, heart disease. The enforcement of this policy will be a challenge in India, since the use of trans fat is so pervasive.

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.