Experts: Bangladesh needs to regulate use of trans fats in food

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Consumption of excessive trans fats is strongly associated with increased risk of severe coronary heart disease, death from heart disease, dementia, and cognitive impairment

Experts have urged the government to take immediate regulatory action to control the excessive use of trans fats or trans fatty acids (TFA) in food.

Experts made the demand as a study revealed 92% of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs), popularly known as Dalda, sampled in Dhaka, contained excessive levels of TFA.

The research findings and expert suggestions were disclosed at a press conference on Saturday organized for the dissemination of the research report, “Assessment of Trans Fat in PHOs in Bangladesh.”

Industrially adding hydrogen (hydrogenation) to vegetable oils (palm, soybean) condenses the oil into a semi-solid form and produces TFA.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), trans fat content in all foods should not exceed more than 2% of fats and oils.

However, the study revealed that the mean TFA level in the PHO samples was found to be 11g per 100g sample, more than five times the WHO-set threshold.

Researchers from the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute (NHFHRI) have found such concerning results after analysing samples from leading PHO brands in Dhaka City.

Professor Nazma Shaheen said: “It is highly important to reduce the TFA levels in PHOs to 2% immediately in order to curb the existing health risks from cardiovascular diseases in Bangladesh, and this measure can surely help in regulating TFA levels in the marketed processed foods.”

Consumption of excessive TFA is strongly associated with increased risk of severe coronary heart disease, death from heart disease, dementia and cognitive impairment.

Around 277,000 people die of heart disease each year in Bangladesh. WHO estimates that excessive intake of industrially produced TFA is responsible for more than 500,000 heart disease deaths globally.

Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) Bangladesh Country Lead, Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, said: “India, Thailand, Brazil and many other countries have already enacted policies to regulate TFA in food products following the recommendations of the WHO. Bangladesh has already taken a policy decision for the same. The findings of this research will surely accelerate the process of promulgating policies on trans fat regulation.”

The researchers and organizers of the press conference urged the government to limit TFA to 2% of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods, and to implement the limit as soon as possible.

Professor Nazma Shaheen from the Institute of Nutrition & Food Science, University of Dhaka and Research Advisor Mr. Abu Shamim Ahmed provided research support.

The program was jointly organized by NHFHRI, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), and PROGGA – Progress for Knowledge, in association with Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI). 

Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Research of the NHFHRI presented the research findings, while the Team Leader of the Transfat project of PROGGA, Md Hasan Shahriar, presented The Way Forward at the press conference anchored by Nadira Kiron, news editor of ATN Bangla.

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