Q: What are Trans Fatty Acids?
Trans Fatty Acids are commonly known as Trans Fats. They are a kind of unsaturated fat. They occur naturally in small quantities (upto about 5%) in meat and dairy products. Most of the trans fats we consume are artificially created when plant oils are partially hydrogenated which alters the molecular structure of fat. Tiny amounts of tans fats (less than 1%) are also formed when poly unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) - containing oils like soybean oil and mustard oil are deodorised during refined oil production.
Trans fats have a completely different shape from naturally occurring unsaturated fats. Trans fats have a higher melting point, when compared to natural unsaturated fats which are generally liquid at room temperatures.
Trans fats raise "bad cholesterol" (also called low-density lipoprotein or LDL) that increases risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Some believe that trans fats also cause diabetes and cancer, and affect foetal- and early infancy growth. But these have not been proven so far.
Q: What are Saturated Fats?
These are fats which contain only saturated fatty acids. They do not have any double bonds between carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain - in other words, they are completely saturated with hydrogen atoms. These are solid at room temperatures.
If your saturated fat intake is high you run an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Q: Which is more harmful, Trans Fats or Saturated Fats?
Both trans fats and saturated fats raise bad cholesterol and increase risk of coronary heart disease. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that of daily energy intake from foods (about 200 kcal) not more than 10% (that is 200 kcal or 22gm) should be from both saturated fats and trans fats put together. USA and Canada food laws mandate clubbing together of saturated fats and trans fats for label declaration. However, some reports suggest that trans fats may be more harmful than saturated fats.
Q: Are Trans Fatty Acids present in refined oils? I thought they are present only in Vanaspati?
Trans fats are mainly formed when the liquid refined oils are hydrogenated to convert into solid Vanaspati. However, little quantities of trans fats are also formed when liquid oils particularly those rich in poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like soybean oil and mustard oil are heat treated during refining. Under normal processing conditions during refining of oils less than 1% trans PUFA may be formed.
Q: Is it better to consume butter and desi ghee than refined oils?
No, because the combined amount of saturated fat and trans fat (the cholesterol-raising fats) and cholesterol for butter and desi ghee is much higher than refined oils, even though refined oils may contain some trans fat - natural plus those formed during refining.
Q: I saw in newspaper and TV that Indian edible oil brands contain more than double trans fatty acids than allowed
by the food laws of Denmark. Is this correct?
No, this is not correct. Trans fat content in Indian oils and fats have been reported as 0.4 - 1.5% in refined soybean oil, 0.1 - 1.5% in refined sunflower oil, 0.9% in refined groundnut oil, and 1% in refined safflower oil. Of this total trans fats, about 0.5% is natural trans fats carried over and hence the artificially created trans fats are 0 - 1%. Denmark food laws exempt natural trans fats from the overall 2% limit for trans fats. Thus Indian oils and fats are actually well within the Denmark food laws.
The only exception in the above findings is a refined rice bran oil brand (3.3% total trans fats, about 2.8% artificially created trans fats) and a blended oil brand with 80% refined rice bran oil (2.4% total trans fats, about 1.9% artificially created trans fats).
Q: The newspaper and TV reports are comparing trans fatty acids of Indian oils and fats with Denmark standards.
Where is Denmark and why is it necessary to follow Denmark food standards?
Denmark is a north European country, smaller than Haryana state in area and population less than half of Delhi with per capita GDP 20-times that of Indians. It is the only country in the world till date which has introduced an upper limit for trans fats in oils and fats. This law was introduced in July 2003 and in the more than 5-years since then no other country including European Union, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have introduced similar restrictions on trans fats. Even UN FAO, WHO and the international food standards (Codex) do not stipulate any upper limit of trans fats.
It is due to this reason the only comparison can be done with Denmark, although it is quite evident that there is nothing comparable between Denmark and India.
Q: Indian brands of vanaspati are said to contain high percentage of harmful trans fatty acids. Why the industry
does not produce vanaspati without trans fats?
As per the Indian food laws (that is, the Prevention of Food Adulteration Laws), "VANASPATI means any refined edible vegetable oil or oils, subjected to a process of hydrogenation". Once hydrogenated, vegetable oils develop trans fats. Thus, technically Vanaspati has to contain trans fats to meet Indian food laws.
It is indeed possible to produce Vanaspati-like solid fat with negligible trans fats like refined oils and contrary to some media reports the technology is available and affordable, but the Indian food laws have to be modified to use this technology to produce Vanaspati.
Q: With so much Trans fats in Vanaspati, health of Indians must be in peril!
WHO has recommended that trans fats should be restricted to less than 1% of daily dietary energy intake. Considering normal average dietary energy intake of 2000 kcal per person per day, and 9 kcal energy per gram of fat, for a population of 115-crore the present availability of 10-lakh ton per year of Vanaspati with average 20% trans fats accounts for 0.2% of daily dietary energy intake. Clearly, this is much lower than the WHO recommendation.
Q: Is anything being done to safeguard against excessive trans fat consumption unknowingly?
Nutritional labeling is being introduced in India from March 2009. This will entail declaration of trans fatty acids along with other fatty acids and cholesterol, in case any health or nutritional claims are made by the manufacturer, like 'good for heart', 'healthy', 'PUFA-rich', etc. All packed foods made using Vanaspati will have to declare trans fat content in the nutritional declarations on the label. Vanaspati and refined oils without any health claim will remain outside this statute, but the consumer can make an educated choice.
Q: What are MUFA & PUFA? When an oil is said to be MUFA or PUFA based, does it mean that other compounds are
MUFA & PUFA are the short forms of Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids and Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids, respectively. All edible oils contain both MUFA & PUFA, though one of these may be present in higher percentage than the other. However, all edible oils contain some Saturated Fatty Acids (SAFA) as also traces of non-oil compounds - some of which have important roles in nutrition and health, like Vitamin-E and Lecithin
Q: Is it true that some edible oils have cholesterol while some are cholesterol-free?
All edible vegetable oils are free from cholesterol. Cholesterol is only present in animal fats like butter and ghee.
Q: Are there any oils, which are saturated, fat-free?
Oils may be low on saturates, though there are no saturated fat free oils.
Q: What is Cholesterol and what is its relevance?
Cholesterols are made up of a fat (lipid) part and a protein part and hence are also called Lipoproteins. Total Cholesterol comprises of three types of Lipoproteins: High Density Lipoproteins (HDL), Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and very Low Density Lipoproteins (VLDL). Of these, HDL are called Good Cholesterol as they carry cholesterol - that can cause blockage in the arteries - from your cells back to your liver to be removed from your body. LDL and VLDL are called Bad Cholesterol as they form the plaque on artery walls that develops into a blockage that restricts blood flow to the heart - leading to atherosclerosis and coronary heart diseases. To look at the total cholesterol alone does not give an adequate reflection of cholesterol levels. What is important is the ratio between the good and bad. The optimum ratio of Total Cholesterol to LDL should be less than 3.5 to1 (For LDL ratio take the Total Cholesterol and divide by LDL). The ideal ratio of Total Cholesterol to HDL should be less than 3 to 1 (For HDL ratio take the Total Cholesterol and divide by HDL).
Q: Is it alright if I don't eat any fat?
Fat is an essential nutrient required for health and growth, like protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Fats supply essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, which our bodies cannot manufacture. Nutritionists suggest that, for adults, about 30% of the kilojoules consumed should be derived from fat. This translates to 50-60 grams of fat daily for a sedentary adult woman consuming 7500 kilojoules (1800 calories) a day. The type of fat is important - no more than 15 grams a day should be saturated fat.
Q: I have heard that fats don't give us anything except kilojoules (calories). Is it true? And whatis the role of fats in
our daily diet?
Fat serves many functions in nutrition. Fat:
Q: In order to lose excess weight, is it necessary for me to eliminate all fat from my diet lose?
A recent study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health used a regression analysis of data from the Nurses Health Study (80,000 women for 14 years) suggests that replacing saturated fat and trans unsaturated fats with monounsaturated (MUFA)and polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) is more effective in preventing coronary heart disease in women than reducing overall fat intake.
Q: Is it true that canola oil is toxic/contains a poison?
This myth has been circulating on the internet with no substantiation. It probably arose from canola's association with its parent, rapeseed, which contains naturally high levels of erucic acid, but this characteristic has been bred out of canola.
Q: Do light oils keep my fat intake low?
Light or "lite" oils have exactly the same fat and kilojoule content as regular oils. They are simply light in flavour or lighter in colour.