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Facts About Trans Fats: What Are Trans Fats, and Are They Harmful For Health?

Posted on: 12 Jul 2021

By: Dr Vinoth Kumar

Published in:

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What are Trans fats?

Most of the commercially available trans fats are produced through an industrial process which adds hydrogen to the vegetable oil to make it solid at room temperature (partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils). In India, vanaspathi is a commonly used partially hydrogenated vegetable oil which has a high content of harmful Trans fatty acids.

Is consumption of trans fat harmful for health?

Yes. It is considered as the worst type of fat. Trans fats are harmful even when consumed in small quantities.

So how much trans-fat can be consumed per day?

WHO recommends that trans-fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet. The rising trend of eating outside and eating at restaurants have increased the consumption of TFA in the diet indirectly. According to guidelines, TFA should not exceed 2% of the total fat but in some brands of vanaspathi it is more than 20-30%.

What are the common sources of Trans fat ?

Commonly consumed Indian items made up of vanaspathi which contain high amount of trans fats (more than 40-50% of total fat) are Burfi, Gulab-jamun, Halwa, Jilebi, kachori, chewra, biryani, and potato puri, etc.

80% of our trans-fatty acid intake comes from industry-produced products  (cookies, cakes, pastries, microwave popcorn, fried potatoes, potato chips, French fries, soup powders) and only 20% of trans fats come from natural food items like dairy products and meat.

Will deep-frying produce Trans fats in oil?

Trans fats are not formed during the frying process. Ordinary frying process using unhydrogenated oils has little impact on TFAs intake from edible oils. Trans fats can form when the oil is heated to very high temperatures for long time and during reusage of oils.

What are the harmful effects of consuming Trans fats?

Trans fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduce good cholesterol (HDL).

It also induces inflammation in the body which is linked to the development of diabetes, heart stroke, and brain stroke. Even small amounts are harmful for our health.

Consumption of Trans fatty acids are estimated to cause 5, 00, 000 deaths per year across the world.

What are the measures taken by the government to reduce Trans fatty acid intake?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) announced that all edible refined oils, vanaspathi, bakery shortening, margarines, vegetable fat spreads, and mixed fat spreads may only contain 3 % or less trans fats by January 2021 and 2 % or less trans fats by January 2022.

If Trans fats are so harmful, is it ok to reduce most fat-containing food items?

Due to fear of TFA, routinely consumed dairy products and meat should not be avoided as they are good sources of iron, calcium and protein and they have limited amount TFA. A low intake of fats and oils (less than amount corresponding to 20% of daily calorie intake) increases the risk of inadequate intakes of vitamin E and of essential fatty acids which may contribute to unfavourable changes in HDL and triglycerides.

If the restaurants and food industry reduce the usage of vanaspathi and use alternative oils for their products, definitely the Heart disease, Diabetes, and brain stroke incidence will come down.