Artificial trans fats are present in everything, from parathas to pizza to popcorn, it has now officially been banned in the U.S. Manufacturing artificial trans fats is an industrial process where hydrogen atoms are injected into molecules of vegetable fat, which changes their chemical structure. These altered molecules when ingested cause a multitude of problems, leading to disease. Researchers and public health advocates knew years ago that artificial trans fats, (a modified form of vegetable oil), contributed to raising “bad” cholesterol and heart disease, which caused a voluntary change in recipes at food companies, and plummeting trans fat consumption over the past decade.
Artificial Trans fats in the Indian context
In south-east asian countries, especially India and Pakistan, where the majority of the population gorges on fried food, and has higher mortality rates from heart disease than other many other countries, we wonder what the governments are doing about banning this harmful chemical.
In India, artificial trans fats take the form of vanaspati which is made from vegetable oil, costs less and is re-used continuously by restaurants and street vendors in a bid to cut costs.
Research proves that reheating vanaspati, makes it even more lethal, and likely contributes to the soaring rates of heart disease among South Asians.
A study published in the journal Nutrition found that Pakistani men had a 62% higher mortality rate from heart attacks than men in England and Wales.
Michael Jacobson, the former executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest says “The elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply represents a historic and long-fought victory for public health, ridding the food supply of partially hydrogenated oils will save tens of thousands of lives each year.”
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to ban trans fats from their food, mentioning cardiovascular disease risk.
Food manufacturers and eateries in India should learn from their counterparts in the US and replace the harmful ingredients in their recipes with safe ones, so that the health of millions in India can be protected. It is also high time that the government of India banned vanaspati ghee from being manufactured and sold.