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Trans fats

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Trans fats


What to study?

  • Static Part: Transfats- what are they and uses.
  • Dynamic and Current: concerns and the need for reduction in their usage, WHO guidelines, Initiatives in India.


Context: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a new mass media campaign in order to create awareness about trans-fats and eliminate them in India by 2022.


About “Heart Attack Rewind”:

“Heart Attack Rewind”, a 30-second public service announcement, will be broadcast in 17 languages for a period of four weeks on YouTube, Facebook, Hotstar, and Voot. It will also be placed on outdoor hoardings and run on radio stations in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

  • The campaign will warn citizens about the health hazards of consuming trans-fats and offer strategies to avoid them through healthier alternatives.
  • “Heart Attack Rewind” is a follow-up to an earlier campaign called “Eat Right”, which was launched on July 11, 2018. As part of the campaign, edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce trans-fat content by 2% by 2022. Later, food companies also took a pledge to reformulate packaged foods with reduced levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.


Need for awareness and significance of the campaign:

Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans-fats. Since the impact of trans-fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.

This campaign will concentrate on the demand side (consumers), who in turn, will push the supply side (food manufacturers) to come up with various strategies in order to reduce and later replace 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.


WHO recommendations:

In May 2018, WHO has released draft recommendations on limiting the intake of 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:

  • Saturated fatty acids should not comprise more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
  • Trans-fatty acids should not comprise more than 1% of your daily calorie intake.
  • Use heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) as replacement.
  • The recommendations are applicable to both adults and children.


Initiative by Kerala:

  • Kerala is planning to launch an initiative to enforce dietary guidelines, involving the reduction of trans-fatty acids (TFAs), salt and sugar in commercially available foods in the State.
  • The initiative, with technical support from the World Bank, WHO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is being launched as unhealthy diet is pushing up metabolic syndrome and premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Keralites.


Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: A robust and responsive food system is need of the hour to combat undernutrition, non-communicable diseases and hunger around the world. Analyse.