Materia Medica Malaysiana

July 22, 2007

It’s bad, you should know

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 8:58 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Trans fat and hydrogenation are bad words in nutrition and the Health Ministry wants you to be aware of it.
The ministry is reviewing the need to make it mandatory for trans fat, which is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, to be listed in the nutrition label of all foods.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the ministry would also increase efforts to educate the public about trans fat and its dangers.
Trans fat is the ultimate “bad fat” as it is said to increase the bad cholesterol in the body while simultaneously lowering good cholesterol.
It is also linked to certain forms of cancer and diabetes.
Dr Ismail said Canada, Denmark, India and the United States had mandated the listing of trans fat.
New York’s Board of Health voted unanimously last December to ban these artery-clogging artificial trans fat in all restaurants in the city. The restaurants have until July next year to eliminate trans fat in their food.
Dr Ismail said: “Most Malaysians use palm oil (in their cooking) and it doesn’t have this (trans fat) problem.
“But because of the possibility of people using imported products and other types of oils, the ministry will review the need for mandatory labelling of trans fat in foods.”
He said this would be carried out after consultation with food producers and nutritionists.
Fats and oils are made mostly of four types of fatty acids: Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fat.
Trans fat is found naturally in small amounts (dairy products, beef and lamb).
Small amounts of trans fat are also formed during the refining of liquid vegetable oils like canola and soy bean oil.
But mostly, artificial trans fat is created when manufacturers use a process called “hydrogenation”.
This process turns liquid oil into a semi-solid form when hydrogen is added to the oil under intense heat to produce products like shortening or margarine.
Hydrogenation is used to stabilise the flavour, as well as increase the palatability and shelf life of food.
The ministry, said Dr Ismail, was concerned about fast food, margarine and other hydrogenated oil-based products.
Malaysia’s food regulation does not require mandatory labelling of trans fat or any of the three fatty acids for all foods.
However, where a food label highlights any of the four fatty acid components, it will have to list all of them.
So, should Malaysians avoid food that has trans fat?
“I think if you consume in the defined allowable amount, you need not worry about it,” said Dr Ismail.
He said some studies showed that trans fat was not dangerous if the amount consumed was less than one per cent of a person’s total daily calorie intake.
If you consume 2,600 Kcal a day, it is permissible to take 2.6gm of trans fat.

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