Limit trans fats to 1% of calorie intake to keep diseases at bay

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that adults and children should consume a maximum of 10% of their daily calorie intake in the form of saturated fat (found in meat and butter) and 1% in trans fats. These draft recommendations, the first since 2002, are aimed at controlling non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are responsible for an estimated 39.5 million death (72%) of the 54.7 million deaths worldwide in 2016.

Key recommendations:

  1. Saturated fatty acids should not comprise more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
  2. Trans fatty acids should not comprise more than 1% of your daily calorie intake.
  3. Use heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as the replacement.

The recommendations are applicable to both adults and children.

Saturated fatty acids are found in foods from animal sources such as butter, milk, meat, salmon, and egg yolks, and some plant-derived products such as chocolate and cocoa butter, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

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.

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.

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.

The recommendations in these guidelines can be used by policymakers and programme managers to assess current intake levels of these fatty acids in their populations relative to a benchmark, with a view to develop measures to decrease the intake of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids, where necessary, through a range of policy actions and public health interventions.

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