Call for limiting trans-fat to save people’s lives

Bangladesh at risk of harmful trans-fat

Mohammad Al Amin

30 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh runs the risk of being exposed to the harmful effects of trans-fat available in the whole lot of industrially produced food items above the permissible limit of 2 percent.

“The country is at risk of harmful trans-fat. Its use should be controlled immediately to save people. Making regulation and building awareness are the key ways to rein in trans-fat in foods,” Prof Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, National Heart Foundation Hospital & Research Institute, told daily sun.

Physicians can play an important role in this regard, he suggested, adding that if they advise their patients to avoid such food items containing excessive trans-fat, people will follow their advice in most cases.

Dr Asraful Hoque Sium, resident surgeon of National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) echoed the same as Prof Sohel.

“The physicians during counseling the patients should make them alert about the risk of heart diseases due to excessive trans-fat,” he said.

In its report titled “WHO Report on Global Trans fat Elimination 2020” published on September 9 this year, the World Health Organisation said two thirds of the deaths from the Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) due to consumption of trans fat occur in 15 countries, with Bangladesh being one of them.

The burden of deaths from CHD due to trans fat intake in Bangladesh is 4.41 per cent, according to the report.

It said among the 15 countries, the USA, Latvia, Canada and Slovenia adopted best practice policies limiting their maximum level of trans fat in all fats, oils, and foods to 2g per 100g of total fat contents, or banned the production and use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO).

WHO has called upon the remaining 11 countries (Bangladesh, Iran, India, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Egypt, Azerbaijan, Bhutan and Ecuador) to act immediately to protect their population from the harms of trans fat.

Health experts opine that Coronary heart diseases (CHD) and deaths from CHDs owing to consumption of trans fat are preventable, but in spite of the global progress in eliminating trans fats, such deaths still continue.

Some 92 percent of sampled PHO brands in Dhaka City were found to contain trans-fatty acid (TFA) levels above the limit of 2 percent set by the WHO in a study recently conducted by researchers from the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute.

Analysis of the samples even showed a staggering high concentration of TFA with a maximum 20.9g per 100 grams, which is more than 10 times the WHO-set threshold.

Without regulation on limiting trans fat in foods, the public health of Bangladesh is at risk.

Eyeing on that, different organisations including research and advocacy organisation PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) has urged the authorities concerned to limit trans fat to 2 percent and speedy implementation of policies.

“The harmful use of trans fat should be controlled through formulating rules and regulation in a bid to save lives,” ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA, told daily sun.

He mentioned that there is no alternative to making people aware of its harmful effects.

“Now we are working to finalise the regulation to fix the limit of trans fat in foods. At the same time, we are also working to make strategy and planning of how to make people aware of it,” Monzur Morshed Ahmed, head of the technical committee on fixing the trans-fat, told daily sun.  “We will involve health ministry, information ministry and local government ministry to carry out an awareness campaign about it.”

WHO has set a global target of eliminating industrially produced trans-fatty acids from food supply chain by 2023. The countries have to lower the limit of trans fat in foods to 2 percent.

Bangladesh is still far from implementing the REPLACE action package announced by the WHO in 2018.

As per the health experts, the industrially-produced trans-fat, known as dalda or bonospoti ghee in local markets, is a silent toxic killer while the high level trans-fat in food increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduces good cholesterol (HDL) in human body.

An intake of excessive level of trans-fat can cause plaque in blood vessels, disrupting the flow of blood and leading to early heart attacks, resulting in premature deaths.