Trans fats should be banned in restaurants in India


Dr KK Aggarwal    23 June 2018

The US FDA has recently banned the use of artificial trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) from American restaurants and grocery store food items. The FDA had deemed trans fats as not safe in 2015 and had earmarked June 18, 2018 as the date by which manufacturers should stop adding partially hydrogenated oils to foods. However, FDA has now extended the compliance date to January 1, 2020.

Trans fats or trans fatty acids are manufactured by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. They are a byproduct of the chemical reaction that converts liquid vegetable oil into solid margarine or shortening, which prevents liquid vegetable oils from turning rancid. The process involves high pressure, hydrogen gas, and a metal catalyst and the end-product is highly unsuitable for human consumption.

Trans fats reduce the amount of HDL ‘good’ cholesterol and increase levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. They boost the inflammatory process and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.

Trans fats increase the shelf life of packaged foods, and restaurants like to use it as oil for deep frying because it does not need changing as frequently as other oils. Foods rich in trans fats also contain refined sugar and ‘bad’ cholesterol (saturated fats) in large amounts. They add to the taste of these fast foods, which make them very popular among the masses, particularly school-going children.

Over time, consumption of trans fats results in weight gain leading to obesity and even type 2 diabetes, not to mention heart disease. India is regarded as the diabetes and coronary heart disease capital of the world. What is more worrisome is that these diseases are now occurring at a younger age in Indians than their counterparts in the West.

The harmful effects of trans fats are well known to all, yet foods rich in trans fats continue to be consumed in increasing amounts. Hence, it is time to take a strong stand against their use in restaurants considering the fact that eating out has become very popular now even in India.

A study involving more than 7 lakh adults, conducted jointly by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Hygiene, published June 19, 2018 in the journal PLoS Medicine has shown that the affluent (those with a higher household wealth or education) and urban Indians are more at risk of developing heart disease. This is also the population group more likely to consume trans fats in larger amounts.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has said that it plans to reduce the industrially-produced trans fat content in edible oils and vanaspati/ bakery shortenings/margarine from the present 5% to 2% in a phased manner by 2022. It is ironic that while we are planning to target only the manufactured products so far, the US has taken great strides and has already provided an ultimatum for the ban of trans fats in American restaurants.

The Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) has written to the Prime Minister and also to the Health Minister and the Law Minister requesting them to also ban the use of trans fats in restaurants, cafes, hotels, grocery items in India in the same manner as it has been banned in the US and also to take necessary action for creating awareness among the public at large and for encouraging the public at large to:

  1. Choose foods lower in trans fats
  2. Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.
  3. Replace saturated and trans fats in their diet with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs; olive and canola oils) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs; soybean, corn, sunflower oils, nuts).
  4. Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often as the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
  5. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain omega–3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
  6. Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full–fat dairy products, like whole milk.


Dr KK Aggarwal

Padma Shri Awardee

Vice President CMAAO

Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications

President Heart Care Foundation of India

Immediate Past National President IMA

To comment on this article,
create a free account.

Sign Up to instantly get access to 10000+ Articles & 1000+ Cases

Already registered?

Login Now

Most Popular Articles

News and Updates

eMediNexus provides latest updates on medical news, medical case studies from India. In-depth medical case studies and research designed for doctors and healthcare professionals.