This symposium could not have been better timed. We are currently going through a phase of dietary transition; higher economic growth has resulted in a burgeoning middle-class having greater access to commercially available foods, which include fried and baked food items. Most of these foods contain high amounts of Trans fatty acids (TFA) through the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (vanaspati) which is used for its low cost and longer shelf life. Multiple scientific studies have reported that TFAs can adversely affect LDL and HDL cholesterol levels and also increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and elevated inflammatory markers.
But unfortunately, there is no data on either the content of TFA present in fried and baked food items or their consumption by children and adults in India. Most importantly, the Indian consumer today lacks the knowledge and understanding of the adverse effects of TFAs on insulin resistance, heart and other organs of the body. Owing to the effect of TFA on health, governments across the globe have set limits for TFA and made it mandatory to label the TFA content on commercially prepared and packaged food items. But in India, several commercial food items with high content of TFAs are being sold with impunity (and savored by us), with even the roadside vendors selling food items which are replete with TFAs.
The symposium aims to provide an interactive forum for experts to discuss the adverse effects of TFAs especially in relation to non communicable diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It also intends to focus on collaboration between the food industry, and health/nutritional experts and to deliberate upon the permissible levels of Trans fats with special reference to Indian diets.
The need to decrease intake of TFA has to be balanced with the reality that India is dependent on the import of vegetable oils to meet its edible oil requirement. Thus any solution for TFA elimination must be reconciled with this reality.
With the incidence of non communicable diseases being on a constant rise in India, it is high time that we become aware of the consequences of our modern-day dietary preferences and seek feasible alternatives.
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service(CNS), has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: email@example.com, website: www.citizen-news.org)
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