Trans-fats and what to check on labels
Updated: Apr 21
As we all know, Vanaspati is popularly known as the Poor man’s ghee or majorly used as a substitute for Ghee. Most of us call it “Dalda”, but unfortunately that is the brand name of the product which is popular in South Asia. In chemical terms, this is known as the Hydrogenated Vegetable oil.
What is Hydrogenation?
Addition of Hydrogen compounds to the product with the help of a catalyst (nickel), where in the product cannot dissolve in spite of adding solutes.
Consumers are mostly unaware of the cooking mediums used outside their kitchens, especially to make certain packaged foods. Various lab tests have confirmed the presence of trans-fat in Vanaspati, which is the semi-solid cooking fat used majorly in India. If you’re unaware of the term Trans-fat, they are also known as unsaturated fats which increase in cardiovascular diseases and an increase in low-density lipoprotein, which is the bad cholesterol. The consumption of these trans-fatty products is higher in India and is one of the world’s most significant food safety issues. The trend is now shifting more towards the convenient foods and packaging that is very much necessary to read the labels and to know what we eat! Manufacturers label trans-fats on their names as “edible vegetable fat”, “Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” “vegetable shortening or, “margarine” etc.
Image form PubMed
According to the FSSAI, if the food, which uses hydrogenated vegetable fats, must declare on the label “contains trans-fats”. Other means of identifying if a product contains trans-fat is by the ingredients list, wherein it mentioned as “Partially Hydrogenated Oils” or “Hydrogenated oils”. If a company states that their product is “trans-fat free”, it would mean that the product contains less than 0.2g of trans-fat per serving of the food 100mg/100ml. The acceptable limit of trans- fat contents reduced to 5%, which will further decrease to 2% by 2022.
Fatty acid Composition of common Fat-rich products
Image Courtesy:- Official Instagram Page of FSSAI
Food production units like the bakeries; sweet shops etc. are encouraged to use healthier fat options. For instance, we can use palm oil or coconut oil, which has a higher smoking point and lesser trans-fat content in them. The food establishment which does not contain trans-fat content beyond 2g/100g or 100ml of the food can be compliant to use the logo “Trans-Fat free” in their outlets and on their labels.
Image from FSSAI regulatory guidelines
Ways to avoid Trans-fatty food
Eat less bought cakes, biscuits, and pastries. Also limit takeaway food like hamburgers, pizza, and hot chips. These foods, as a whole group, are the leading contributors to saturated and trans fat intake.
On packaged food products in the supermarket, check the ingredients list for ‘hydrogenated oils’ or ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oils’ and avoid foods with these as they contain added trans fat. Health care providers should advise their patients about how to minimize the intake of trans fats. Consumers should learn to recognize and avoid products containing trans fats. Restaurants and food manufacturers should use alternative fats in food production and preparation and local, state, and national government agencies should aid these efforts by enforcing legislation that limits trans fat use. These steps should help reduce the consumption of trans fatty acids, likely resulting in substantial health benefits.