Did you know just a few French fries or a couple of samosas could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 23%? That’s the effect of the 2% dose of trans-fatty acids (TFAs) in them.
“A plate of paratha may fill you, but a plate of bhatura may kill you (because of trans-fats in the frying medium),” said Anoop Misra, director, department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Hospitals, New Delhi, at a symposium on “Trans Fats: Global and Indian Perspectives” on Saturday, organized by the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC), which Dr Misra heads. Trans-fats raise low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol” and reduce high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”. They also raise levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of cardiovascular disease; skew omega-6 and omega-3 ratios; and pose risks of liver dysfunction and prostate or breast cancers. Countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark and New Zealand have regulatory norms on TFA use. Bejon Misra, consumer expert and member, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, says similar legislation and public health initiatives are needed in India.
In an ongoing N-DOC survey in Delhi, 72% of women respondents had heard of trans-fats. Only 28% knew what they were, just 17% knew the sources. Trans-fats are made when cooking oils are overheated or heated repeatedly, and when liquid oils are hydrogenated into hard fats. Vanaspati—the favoured cooking medium for street vendors, according to the survey—is a whopping 40% trans-fat. Small amounts are also found in dairy, animal foods and other vegetable oils.
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