With increasing news of people dying of lifestyle diseases like strokes and heart failure worldwide, The World Health Organization (WHO) has dived in to launch a health campaign that aims to remove trans fats from the diets of all nations by 2023. And yes, it has a detailed strategy in place to reach this goal.
REPLACE, a recent initiative launched by the global organisation, aims to provide assistance to all nations in the task of eliminating trans fats from their regional diets. On the launch of the initiative, Dr Francesco Branca, Director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, WHO, said, “This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats."
It is reported that artificial trans fats, commonly consumed in the United States as partly hydrogenated vegetable oils, are responsible for the death of nearly half a million people globally – and several of them belong to developing nations that aren’t equipped to deal with the health hazards posed by this type of fat. The reason why these hydrogenated vegetable oils are preferred in low-income nations is because they are comparatively inexpensive and have a longer shelf life.
Numerous food companies have come to the forefront and joined WHO in the effort to make this health initiative a success. This includes US food giant, Mondelez International that produces Cadbury chocolates, Oreos and several other popular snacks. A spokesman from the company was reported saying, “We support the organization’s work and broader industry efforts to share best practices and help guide other companies toward the achievement of W.H.O.’s global objective.”
Breaking Down Trans Fats
The American Heart Association explains that trans fats can be divided into two broad categories – artificial trans fats and naturally-occurring trans fats. WHO is focusing on the elimination of artificial trans fats that are created during industrial manufacturing processes, when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils in order to help solidify them. The other category of trans fats are typically found in small quantities in animal foods such as meat products and milk.
So why do trans fats have such a bad reputation when it comes to health? It is primarily because these types of fats can cause your LDL (bad cholesterol) to rise while simultaneously lowering the HDL (good cholesterol) in your body. To put it simply, the intake of trans fats could put you at an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Trans Fats In Indian Diets
Bringing the focus back to India, we spoke to Avni Kaul, Nutrition and Wellness Coach and Founder of Nutri Activania, to get an idea about how Indians can reduce their intake of trans fats.
“Vanaspati and hydrogenated vegetables oils are examples of trans fat in Indian diets. Indian snacks like samosas and pakodas are typically made in vegetable oil and even worse, reused vegetable oil. Dishes like pao bhaji and bhatura might be rich in vanaspati too. This basically means that most of your favourite snacks are being prepared in very poor quality oil.”
Avni adds, “We need to educate people about the importance of reducing the intake of visible fats – including oils from animal sources (ghee and butter) as well as plant sources (vegetable oils, nuts and seed oils and hydrogenated vegetable oils).”
Start reducing your intake of trans fats today by focusing on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, nuts and poultry. In addition to this, also reduce the amount of sugary foods and red meat you eat on a daily basis.