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Tuesday May 21, 2024

Study reveals high trans-fat commonly consumed at university cafeterias

By Our Correspondent
April 24, 2024
The Department of Food Science & Technology building in the University of Karachi. — University of Karachi Website/File
The Department of Food Science & Technology building in the University of Karachi. — University of Karachi Website/File 

Islamabad:A recent study conducted by the Food Technology Department at the University of Karachi has shed light on concerning levels of industrially produced trans-fats (iTFAs) in commonly consumed food products in university cafeterias. The study, sponsored by Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) under the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign, aims to address the health risks associated with trans-fat consumption and advocates for regulatory measures to improve food quality and safety.

The study focused on assessing the nutritional composition of the five most consumed food items served in various cafeterias across university campuses, with a particular emphasis on trans-fat content. The findings revealed that Paratha, a staple food item consumed by students, contained trans-fat levels beyond the 2% limit defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA). This poses a significant public health concern, as excessive trans-fat consumption is associated with various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Parkash Meghwar, the lead researcher of the study, highlighted the urgency of addressing the issue: "The presence of high levels of trans-fats in commonly consumed food products such as parathas on campus poses a serious threat to the well-being of the students. Immediate action is needed to regulate trans-fat content in all food items and ensure the provision of healthier alternatives."

Speaking on behalf of PYCA, Huma Jehangir, Programme Implementation Lead said, “This study conducted at the University of Karachi is one example of how young people are responding to the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign and actively highlighting the urgency for regulating industrially produced trans-fats to less than 2 per cent of the total fat in all foods across Pakistan.”

Dr. S.M. Ghufran, Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Karachi, while commenting on the situation shared, “Based on the study findings, implementing regulations to limit the presence of trans-fats in our dietary sources and curbing the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, a major source of trans fats, is essential to protect public health in Pakistan.” Discussing the need to work closely with young people, Dr. Ghufran added, “It is commendable that PYCA is working to address the issue of trans-fat in educational institutions, an area that has not received adequate attention in the past. Over the past few decades, several chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and hypertension, have been increasingly observed among young people. Therefore, taking timely action to address this issue in all educational institutions nationwide would be beneficial.”

PYCA, as the sponsor of this research under the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign, is committed to engaging media and youth across the country to advocate for regulating iTFAs in dietary sources. Through collaborative efforts, policymakers, health professionals, and consumers can work together to reduce the health risks associated with trans-fat consumption and improve the overall quality of the food supply.