Killer trans fats: How samosa and French Fries are damaging your heart | Health


Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in Lok Sabha on Friday how high intake of trans-fatty acids is increasing the risk of lifestyle diseases such as coronary heart disease. In a written reply to a Parliament question, Mandaviya said that 5,40,000 deaths are attributed annually to the consumption of industrially produced tans fats. He mentioned that such intake could increase risk of death from any cause by 34% while coronary artery disease risk by 28%.

Oil used to fry samosa or French Fries is usually of low quality like dalda/vanaspati which is a form of saturated fat that tends to increase the blood cholesterol. (Freepik)
Oil used to fry samosa or French Fries is usually of low quality like dalda/vanaspati which is a form of saturated fat that tends to increase the blood cholesterol. (Freepik)

As per World Health Organization, industrially produced trans fat is commonly found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads. To minimise these risks, FSSAI has taken measures and set norms to limit trans-fat levels in food products and edible oils and fats to 2 per cent.

What are trans fats? Know the difference between natural trans fats and artificial trans fats

“Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are a form of fat which occurs both in natural and artificial forms. Natural trans fats occur in meat and dairy from animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. They form naturally when bacteria in these animals’ stomachs digest grass. An example of natural trans fat is conjugated linoleic acid and moderate intake of these fats does not appear harmful,” says Dr Tushar Tayal, Consultant- Internal Medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram in an interview with HT Digital.

“Artificial trans fats is a type of dietary fat where liquid oils are turned into solid fats. These are also called partially-hydrogenated oils (PHOs). Artificial trans fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. This partially hydrogenated oil is inexpensive and less likely to spoil, so foods made with it have a longer shelf life, “adds Dr Tayal.

Why are industrially produced trans fats harmful for health?

“Recent studies shows increase in heart attacks in the younger population, and the etiology behind this trend is their lifestyle, i.e decrease in the physical activity and increase in consumption of foods that are rich in cholesterol. Surprisingly to many it’s not the consumption of ghee or egg yolks or cashews that the cholesterol increases, instead it’s the consumption of junk food (burgers, pizzas, momos, chole bhature, samosa, tikkis etc), packaged and preserved food that causes the cholesterol to increase. To be more precise the oil used to fry the food item primarily is of low quality (with dalda/vanaspati- a form of saturated fat that tends to increase the blood cholesterol) and secondly it is re-used, i.e. same oil is used to fry the items again and again, converting the oil a rich source,” says Shweta Gupta, Unit Head- Dietitics, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh in an interview with HT Digital.

List of foods that have trans fats and that are killing you

Most commercially processed food contains PHO’s unless it’s specifically mentioned on the packaging that it’s free of trans fat

Example of such food items are:

* Fast foods such as French fries

* Margarine spreads or peanut butter

* Chips, crackers, cookies and namkeen

* Fried foods including fried chicken, onion rings, and nuggets

* Pre-prepared products, such as pie crusts, pizza dough, and cookie dough

* Some pastries, donuts, and pies

Harmful effects of trans fats

Dr Tayal shares adverse effects of consuming foods rich in trans fats on regular basis:

  • Studies indicate that artificial trans fats increase inflammation, especially in people with excess weight or obesity.
  • They also cause damage to the inner lining of your blood vessels, known as the endothelium.
  • Trans fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. which can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries (blood vessels). This increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Excess consumption of trans fat also causes weight gain and increases diabetes risk.
  • Some studies have also linked the consumption of artificial trans fats to memory loss, cancer, depression and liver dysfunction.

What’s the solution?

“It’s a common practice these days that after the office hours or after the evening tuitions, teenagers and youngsters are found hovering near these food stalls. And in the break time, most snacked items are biscuits, packaged chips and namkeens, through which the trans- fat is ingested. And on the top of all, the inclination of the youth has drifted away from green leafy vegetables and fruits making their diets low in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making them all the more to high cholesterol. And it’s not only increasing the cholesterol but also the fat in the body leading to obesity, and hypertension (because of high salt content in these foods) and eventually diabetes. So, it’s advisable that if one wants to take care of his/her health one should start with refraining oneself from eating these fast foods and the packaged foods instead go back to their roots that is focus on eating 5-6 serving of vegetables and 1-2 serving of fresh seasonal fruits,” concludes Shweta Gupta.

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