Waiting in a long queue at the checkout counter of a supermarket, do you too do a careful study of the ingredients of packaged foods that you have filled in your shopping basket, and wonder whether you really need them? The mental battle with oneself is often lost when one thinks of days when the house help is not going to turn up, and the unending work from home will get so gruelling that only a can of beans or frozen fries can save you! But the worry about causing distress to health stays.
To bring some relief to those woes, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has decided to reduce the permissible limit of trans fat level in packaged foods from 5% to 3% (and is further expected to come down to 2% by 2022). This implies that the packaged food you often consume, and even the foods that you pick from a bakery or a restaurant, will now be less loaded with trans fat.
“Every big journey starts with a small step of awareness, and putting labels of trans fat percentages on food items or even talking about the impact of trans fat will help consumers make healthier food choices.” – Manjari Chandra, consultant – therapeutic and functional nutrition
Health experts have hailed this decision as a good step towards promoting a healthier lifestyle especially among youngsters. “Trans fat is an industrial fat which is created by the food industry for their own use by chemically modifying liquid fat and hydrogenating them. So the biggest benefit of reducing it is that it will start a conversation around healthy food habits, and this is the need of the hour,” says Manjari Chandra, consultant – therapeutic and functional nutrition, adding, “Every big journey starts with a small step of awareness, and putting labels of trans fat percentages on food items or even talking about the impact of trans fat will help consumers make healthier food choices. Youngsters who have been consuming a lot of trans fat in burgers, pizzas, bakery products etc must understand that developing healthy food habits is much more important than just calorie control. Many youngsters nowadays have downloaded apps that suggest portion control as a way of achieving an ideal body weight, but holistic health is all about what you eat as much as it is about how much you eat. So, what we call as junk food that is loaded with trans fat, is actually not at all good for the body in any amount. Therefore, reduced level of trans fat needs to be complimented with inculcating healthier eating habits.”
The rising cholesterol levels among people also needs regulation, and experts feel that this decision on trans fat will help in achieving that across all age groups. Sangeeta Kukreja, dietitian and holistic health coach, says, “Taking less trans fat will have a wonderful impact on people’s health including regulating cholesterol levels, normalising the inflammation that trans fats cause that leads to damage to the inner lining of blood vessels. It will ultimately decrease the risk and exposure to multiple cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, diabetes and also additional weight gain especially abdominal fat. Another benefit of this reduction in trans fat will be that the food industry will look for healthier alternatives.”
Consuming trans fat while living a sedentary life certainly needs attention. Stating the accumulative impact of trans fat on the body that invites diseases in the longer run, Neelanjana Singh, a nutritionist and wellness consultant, says, “Being cooped up at home, without house help and working from home has increased dependence on easy to make packaged foods. Therefore, as we battle the pandemic, this decision will at least help in drawing back focus on better health for a fitter India. If the lifestyle can’t be changed much for the time being, a tweak in what we are consuming and going from unhealthy to healthy, will bring a huge difference.”
The body weight that everyone has been trying to shed to normalise their BMI (Body Mass Index), will be helped by a reduction in consuming trans fats. “Trans fats are highly notorious fats that are known to cause many health hazards. These fats are adversely used in commercial foods (ready to eat packaged food), bakery and in restaurants. Although their intake by denizens has declined in recent years because city dwellers have become more health conscious and because awareness about them has increased overtime, and regulators have restricted the use of trans fats. However, these fats still pose a big problem to public health. The reduction in their limit will lead to people making healthier food choices, which will eventually lead to a fitter India! As people reduce the consumption of trans fat, they’ll also start normalising their body weight and cholesterol levels. Blockage of arteries and other cardio vascular issues that are a result of eating a lot of trans fat will also get reduced,” opines nutritionist Arooshi Aggarwal.
“The general health of people has deteriorated since the 1980s owing to influx of such a large variety of packaged foods in the country… This has lead to high cholesterol levels, obesity, cardio vascular problems and diabetes.” – Dr Nipun Gupta
“Trans fat has no known health benefit and it is recommended to keep it as low as possible. And an unhealthy lifestyle could be a contributor to aggravating the condition of Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) as well,” says Dr Nipun Gupta, adding, “The general health of people has deteriorated since the 1980s owing to influx of such a large variety of packaged foods in the country. As a result, people developed a habit of consuming foods that are saturated with trans fat. This has lead to high cholesterol levels, obesity, cardio vascular problems and diabetes. The decision of FSSAI will benefit everyone’s health in the long run. Not consuming trans fat will reduce fat in your body, normalise your cholesterol and sugar levels. Even for hormonal diseases like PCOD, a healthy lifestyle will help normalise hormones. Along with consuming lesser trans fat now, I encourage people to engage in exercising more, and to make healthier food choices.”
Author tweets @FizzyBuddha
Follow more stories on Facebook and Twitter