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Trans fatty acids (TFA)

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health.

 

Trans fatty acids (TFA)

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Transfats- what are they, uses, concerns and the need for reduction in their usage.

 

Context: Kerala has drawn up an action plan to generate public awareness on the harmful effects of trans fatty acids (TFA) in commercially available food items and to encourage the local food industry to meet the current statutory limits set for TFA.

  • Various studies suggest that an unhealthy diet with a high TFA content is a significant factor that pushes up metabolic syndrome and the burden of its associated complications.
  • The Health Department is being supported in this initiative by Vital Strategies, the nutrition wing of the World Bank; the WHO; the FSSAI; and the State Food Safety wing, which will be in charge of enforcement.

 

What are 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.

 

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’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

 

Permissible limit:

WHO recommends that trans-fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake and has called for the total elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. FSSAI has proposed to limit TFA limit in foods to 2% and eliminate trans fats from foods by 2022.

 

Sources: the hindu.