Dr. Juliot Vinolia Rajarathinam, Clinical Dietitian and Consultant Nutritionist- Interview with Gulf News on Trans Fatty Acids

Published on July 5 2015

Are trans fats a necessary evil?

Beyond the world of hydrogenated oil-based foods, the fact is that trans fats are also found to occur naturally in the intestines of certain animals such as bovine animals and sheep. Compounds such as vaccenyl and conjugated linoleyl acid are produced in very small quantities in the intestines of these animals and are, therefore, found in their meat and milk. But the quantity is so small that it’s insignificant.

Juilot Vinolia, clinical nutritionist at Medeor 24/7 hospital in Dubai, explained why it is a challenging task to escape the trans fatty acid trap. “Traditionally, fat and sugar are used as a preservative in the food industry for many years as this is what gives these products a long shelf life. Some brands of meat burgers, for instance, can be preserved in the frozen state for up to four years. Any processed or packaged food with a shelf life of more than three months is likely to have trans fat in it. The worst kind of product that contains trans fat are processed sausages, which mothers lovingly feed their children [as a snack or part of a meal]. They have a good percentage of trans fatty acids and as a staple food for children are highly avoidable.”

Other ways people can cut down on trans fats in their diet is by minimising barbecues, as the meat and chicken cooked over open wood and charcoal fires can transform the naturally occurring trans fats in animal products and make them more harmful to your health.”

It also pays to assess the amount of food you are consuming that comes in tetra packs.

Much of what is packaged or put into tetra-packs contains trans fats in some amount, says Vinolia. “People switch from normal milk to creamers which contain a certain percentage of trans fats. Just consider the number of cups of tea and coffee you might be having in a day and the amount of trans fats you are adding to your food even while you think you are drinking healthy. Take the low-calorie crackers which we presume are healthy. They contain 0.5gm per serving of trans fat. If you were to have more than two or three, you would be consuming too much trans fat. The biggest culprits are the zero-fat, zero-sugar products. When they remove the natural fat, they add trans fat and they add artificial sweeteners to enhance taste, chemically altering the nutrition of a product. You need to read labels and make sure that trans fat in any product is less than 5-7 per cent per serving of the product. So, if a product contains 5gm of trans fat, per 100gm of the product will have 0.5 per cent of trans fat. In a day, we often reach out for biscuits, chips, ice-cream and increase our consumption of this harmful additive to more than 10 per cent of our daily calorie intake.”