Coronary heart diseases are increasing at an alarming rate in the country. This is assuming epidemic proportion day-by-day and has already become a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Every year, around 277,000 people die of heart diseases in Bangladesh. Poor diet generates a larger burden of the diseases. An unhealthy food environment dominated by processed foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fats and, crucially industrial trans-fatty acids (TFAs) is the reason behind the alarming situation. TFA consumption substantially increases people’s risk of heart diseases. It does this mainly by elevating harmful cholesterol levels and decreasing that of protective cholesterol.
What is much more alarming is that public health is at risk due to high percentage of TFA in Partially-Hydrogenerated Oils (PHOs). This has been revealed at a study conducted by the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute recently. Analysing samples from leading PHO brands, the researchers found that 92 per cent of PHOs contain excessive TFA which is far above the permissible level of 2 per cent— a limit set by the World Health Organisation. Consumption of excessive TFA increases the risk of severe coronary heart diseases, deaths from heart diseases, dementia and cognitive impairment. Public awareness about adverse effects of TFA on human health is important. So, the need of the hour is to disseminate awareness to public. Media can play an effective role in educating the masses and advocating the policy for the sale of only low TFA food items.A question also arises about the necessity of government food controllers. Are they silent spectators? They must be held accountable for their negligence, if any. Moreover, it is the duty of the administration and other relevant authorities to do the needful to limit TFA to 2 per cent of total fat in all fats, oils and foods. At the same time, implementation of the limit at the earliest is a must. The establishment should also formulate an appropriate policy in this regard without further delay.
Finally, media must play a vital role to convince the policy makers for gradual elimination of industrially produced trans-fats from food supply.