Monday October 18, 2021

Eliminating trans fats from food supply can save millions of lives

Rawalpindi : The use of again and again reheated oil to fry dishes like ‘pakoras’, ‘samosas’, ‘kachoris’, ‘jalebis’ etc. can be a risk factor for heart disease, breast cancer and prostate along with a number of other serious health threats as repeatedly reheated oil even of the finest quality transforms into trans fatty acid that is one of the main risk factors behind heart diseases and stroke.

Studies reveal that a toxin called 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (HNE) forms when such oils as canola, corn, soybean and sunflower oils are reheated. Consumption of foods containing HNE was found to be associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington's disease, various liver disorders and cancer.

Now WHO has set target for elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from global food supply by 2023, it is responsibility of health departments of provincial governments of Pakistan to take initiative and impose ban on the use of Trans fats in restaurants and bakeries in the best interest of public health, said Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College Professor Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry while talking to ‘The News’.

He added the district health departments should also fine on spot the vendors using same oil for many days for frying ‘samosas’ and ‘pakoras’. Restaurants and bakeries should be asked to use a blend of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as combination of canola and olive oil or combination of sunflower, soybean and cotton seed oil, he said.

He added the print and electronic media should also play their part in educating the public about the harmful effects of trans fats.

Government should make it mandatory for food manufacturers to list trans fats often called hydrogenated oils on nutrition labels as is practice in most developed countries, said Dr. Ashraf. “Many states in the United States have banned the use of trans fats in restaurants, bakeries and school cafeterias.”

He said banning trans fats will reduce the number of heart attacks without changing the taste or cost of food and eliminating their use around the world can save millions of lives.

If you want to reduce your intake of trans fats, you should avoid products that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat or oil on the label, he said. Use fat-free or low-fat dairy products and when eating out, try to eat less fried foods such as French fries, burgers, pizzas, fried chicken etc. Try to eat fewer biscuits, cakes, crackers and pastries. Use liquid vegetable oil such as olive or canola oil for frying, suggested Dr. Ashraf.

He said the WHO has called on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially–produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply. According to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in global fight against cardiovascular disease.

REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply. Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change. Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils such as canola oil and olive oils. Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats. Assess and monitor trans-fat content in the food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population. Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers and the public. Endure compliance of policies and regulations.

Dr. Ashraf believes that it is right time for the government to step forward in right direction and work out plans to adopt REPLACE action package to safeguard population from health threats, trans fats are posing.