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Avoid Dangerous Trans Fats

It is not an exaggeration to call them ‘Highly Dangerous Trans Fats'…

Trans-Fats or Trans Fatty Acids are directly linked to increase in risk of coronary heart disease. According to some predictions, a whopping 26 lakh persons are likely to die due to coronary heart disease in India in the year 2020.

Trans Fats are manufactured by adding hydrogen gas to liquid vegetable oils through a process called partial hydrogenation and the result is a solid fatty oil known in India as vanspati or vegetable ghee. These partially hydrogenated oils are inexpensive and are often used by food companies and restaurants to the texture and flavour of foods.

Whereas smoking, diabetes, hypertension, obesity are all contributory factors for heart disease, an additional major contributor to elevate risk to heart in India is Trans-Fats consumed through vegetable ghee, vanaspati, margarine, packaged snacks and deep-fried street food.

It’s a double whammy with Trans Fats: They not only raise LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels but also lower HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels. This leads to an increase of LDL to HDL ratio and also rise in the level of another important heart disease marker CRP (C-Reactive Protein).

Indians are exposed to a greater risk from trans-fats due to our food habits…

In countries of Western Europe and in US regulations governing Trans-Fats have been tightened and in some cases usage of Trans-Fats has even been banned. Unfortunately, most of the people in India are unaware of the dangers posed by Trans Fats and in fact, many persons haven't even heard of Trans Fats!

India lacks in highlighting danger posed by Trans-Fats, despite the fact that Indian homes and restaurants widely use vanaspati in view of better taste as well as lower cost as compared to butter and pure ghee.

Secondly lakhs of snack food outlets operate in India, both regular establishments and street vends. Their deep-fried street food such as vadas, samosas and the like are relished by millions every day without realising the risk of Trans Fats which occur because these outlets deep-fry in the same batch of oil for hours together and also reuse the leftover oil.

We have outlined in Resources below precautions that must be taken to save ourselves from the Trans Fats.

A brief note on good fats...

Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) provide the essential Omega 6 and Omega 3. All vegetable oils and processed foods provide Omega 6, whereas some vegetable oils, fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and greens like methi provide Omega 3. However, Omega 6 and Omega 3 should be balanced, with ideal ratio of 1:1. This can be achieved by avoiding for vegetable oils with proportionately higher Omega 6 (rice bran oil, cottonseed oil, soyabean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil) and opting for vegetable oils with proportionately higher Omega 3 (canola oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, safflower oil) as well as by eating 12 walnuts (appx 1 ounce) per day.

Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) are found in oils of olive, canola, flaxseed, almond, sesame and peanut as well as in dark chocolate, peanut butter, almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts and seeds like sesame, pumpkin, poppy, chia etc. So far as Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA) are concerned, latest research indicates that reasonable quantum of SFAs are actually needed by the body. So do not hesitate to indulge reasonably in butter, ghee, red meat, chicken, cheese, full-fat dairy, coconut oil etc.

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A) Totally ban Vanaspati and Margarine (both of which are Partially Hydrogenated Oils) from your kitchen. Do not use Vanaspati and Margarine under any circumstances in your cooking.

B) In your kitchen, do not carry out deep frying with the same batch of oil for a longer time. After frying, discard the oil and do not reuse the same in any form of cooking or frying.

C) Do not eat deep fried snacks such as samosas, pakoras, kachoris, vadas, bhajiyas, jalebis, gulab jamun etc from snacking outlets. At these outlets, snacks are fried continuously with additional oil regularly added to the used-up oil in the kadhai.

D) Avoid 'videshi' snacks such as microwaved popcorn, doughnuts, french fries and fried chicken since they are also loaded with trans-fats.

E) While eating in restaurants avoid eating foods in which Vanaspati could have been used. While ordering food, you may enquire with the restaurant staff whether the dishes ordered contain Vanaspati.

F) Before buying packaged snacks at local grocery or supermarket, check the label and buy only if Trans Fats content is indicated as 0 or 0%

G) It is best to avoid cakes, cake icing, cookies, crackers, biscuits, pastries, potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips and mithai since all of them contain Trans Fats. If you must, just nibble on a small bite.

H) If you cannot follow above guidelines to 100% extent, make an effort to do your best. After all, you owe it to yourself and to your heart!

I) A strong body like FDA has been able to curb the transfats menace in USA. Since in India we do not have such organisations, it is the civil society which will have to fight to highlight the threat that trans-fats pose to the cardiac well-being of Indians.

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