U.S. to curb trans fats by 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will seek to eliminate majority of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from the country’s food supply by 2018. The decision comes after years of lobbying by health advocates and scientists that artificial oils, commonly called “trans fats”, clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.

  • The FDA aims to revoke the current status of PHOs as a “generally recognised as safe” food product and reclassify it as a “food additive.” This implies that manufacturers would no longer be able to use the oils in other foods without prior regulator approval.
  • The new policy could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year in the country.

Trans fats:

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

  • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
  • In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
  • The most common dietary source of Trans fats is the partially hydrogenated vegetable fat commonly known as ‘Vanaspati Ghee’/Margarine.
  • Since partially hydrogenated vegetable fat (Vanaspati/Margarine) is rather high in TFA, all food items prepared, baked or fried by using Vanaspati/Margarine contain TFA. These include: Cakes and Pastries; Patty, Rusk; Fried Aloo Chaat , AlooTikki (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Sweets (Mithai) (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Cookies / biscuits, French fries, Potato chips, Bhatura, Samosa, Parantha, etc.

Harmful effects:

  • TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease.
  • Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
  • It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

Why they are increasingly being used?

  • TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. F
  • These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

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