Hey Pakistan, let’s talk about trans fats, shall we?
I know we all run from chemistry, but bare with me for just a few seconds, won’t you?
Trans-fatty acids (TFAs), which are more commonly known as trans fats are a type of fat that can be found in various foods. They are formed through a process called hydrogenation, which converts liquid oils into solid fats. TFAs have a unique chemical structure which has at least one trans double bond in their fatty acid chain.
Now, you all must be wondering where do trans fats come from?
Trans fats exist in natural as well as artificial forms. They occur naturally in small amounts in some animal-based foods like meat and dairy products.
However, it is the artificial ones that we should be worried about!
Artificial transfats AKA industrially produced TFAs or iTFAs, are made during the hydrogenation process of vegetable oils.
Foods which pose a high risk of TFAs include: Vanaspati ghee, margarine, bakery shortenings and cooking oils used for deep-frying. (THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!!)
Why are Trans fats so scary??
Well, trans fats are much dreaded because they are not friends of our bodies and no, they will not be there for us! They in fact, cause multiple diseases in our bodies such as Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and heart diseases (also called non-communicable diseases).
How can we regulate trans fats in Pakistan?
WHO has provide a REPLACE framework which promotes countries to Review TFA food sources, Promote the replacement of TFAs with healthier alternatives, Assess and monitor TFAs content in food and Legislate or enforce regulations to eliminate TFAs in our food. WHO also recommends limiting iTFAs to 2 grams per 100 grams of total fat in all foods.
Current scenario of transfats consumption in Pakistan
Pakistan rates the second-highest in terms of TFAs intake in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean (WHO-EMRO) Region. Approximately, $2640 million was spent on diabetes in 2021. 62 million Pakistanis will be diabetic by 2045. PKR428 billion was the annual cost of obesity in Pakistan in 2015.
The lack of immediate action against trans fats in Pakistan continues to promote non-communicable diseases causing a strain on the economy of Pakistan.
Swift action is a need!
Pakistan must come together in demanding a mandatory national limit of 2 grams of industrially produced trans fats per 100 grams of total fat in all foods across Pakistan from the government.
Let’s build a healthier and a trans-fats free Pakistan together!
For more information on trans fats in Pakistan, follow PYCA’s TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign on social media 👇