Transfats: The Demon in your food

Burger, fries, hot dog, pizza

The WHO recognizes all Transfats to be poison and recommends doing away with them by 2023, India has taken a gradual approach to phasing out Transfats as it targets allowing less than 2% transfat content in our food by the year 2022. Large scale production of transfats started in 1902 and it took almost 8 decades to realize their harmful effects, ill effects of transfats consumption become evident over a course of many years.

Cow’s milk and meat are some of the natural sources of Transfats not much is known about naturally occurring transfats though it is confirmed that naturally occurring Transfats don’t do much harm.

“It is the man made Transfats that is a health hazard, almost all the Transfats in food today is anthropogenic (man-made) and all of it is poison. They have no role in the human body hence they should not be consumed” says Professor Gupta, Director-Professor at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi.

Dr Gupta says that transfats increase the LDL (harmful cholesterol) hence contribute to heart problems “Indians are known to be more prone to Heart attacks, we see heart attacks occurring at ages as young as 18 years among men, in our country heart attacks occur not only at a younger age but these also tend to be more severe, trans fats and deteriorating environment some of the contributors to this. Statistics prove that societies such as Canada which have proactively limited Transfats have witnessed a fall in cardiovascular problems”.

Prof Gupta says that apart from heart problems transfats are also responsible for a myraid of other problems such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, prostate though cardiovascular diseases and coronary heart disease is the most common problem associated to it.

But why has transfats become so common? “These are easy to produce and cheap, they add to the taste of food items and can make the products crisper as is the case with namkeen, these also add to the shelf life of the products. Hence these are cheaper, tastier and lasts longer” says Dr Gupta.

Dr Mala Manral is a Registered Dietitian at the Center of Neurosciences, AIIMS, she highlights that TF’s reduce insulin sensitivity hence making a person more vulnerable to diabetes “Apart from doubling the risk of cardiovascular diseases TF’s causes higher amounts of weight gain compared to other types of fat, they also increase the risk of type II diabetes as they decrease insulin sensitivity and increases the blood glucose levels in patients.”

Dr Manral cautions against repeated reheating of oil “79% of our transfat consumption is from artificial sources partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO) are rich in transfats, apart from hydrogenation repeated reheating of oil also produces transfats hence it is advised not to reheat the oil once the dish is prepared.”

Since rigorous labeling norms are not enforced in India Dr Manral advises people to read the nutritional facts of packed food for avoiding excessive TF consumption “While buying food make a habit of reading the label because transfats are not currently labeled on the nutritional fact labels one should look out for is the presence of Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil(PHVO) , Vanaspati oils and margarine some of the other items one should look out for.”

Dr Manral stresses that healthier snaking options are available which people could choose “A lot of transfat consumption is done through snacks however there are several alternatives that are readily available like steamed idlis, vegetable uttapams, stuffed rotis, steamed corn, bhelpuri with sprouts. Instead of fried eggs one can go for poach and boiled eggs, whole foods and vegetables; nuts too are great source of snacks, atta noodles with good amount of vegetables are a very good alternative. Multigrain and brown breads too are good. Rather than sugary colas coconut water, lemonade, chanch, lassi should be taken so a lot of options are there.”

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