CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Trans-Fat: How healthy is your meal? By Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello

What is fulfilment without some sort of financial security? However little, money makes the world go round, and enables us live a good life and achieve our aims. There is no way of achieving all of these without hard work. Amid our busy schedule, we sometimes forget that staying healthy is priority. Afterall, good health is the necessary wealth that is needed to navigate through life.

The hustle and bustle sometimes weaken us, takes our time, shifts our focus and when we get hungry, we grab the next available meal. This very often are fast foods laden with trans-fat or other foods made with oils we cannot vouch for.
When cooking, a lot of people do not pay attention to the nutritional contents of the meal being prepared. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more difficult as many homes now operate on shoestring budgets. Oils are often used and reused until they turn dark and putrid, in a bid to save cost.

Looking at the two divides between wealth to the point that we are dependent on fast foods, and “economising” food resources to be able to save on what little there is, trans-fat has slowly crept into the meals of everyday Nigerians regardless of their social class.

Trans-fat, also known as hydrogenated fats, forms a process where regular or liquid vegetable is converted into solid fats while passing it through hydrogen. There are two types of hydrogenated oils – partially hydrogenated and fully hydrogenated oil.

Partially hydrogenated oil increases the bad cholesterol and lowers the good cholesterol in the body which could lead to cardiovascular and other heart related diseases while a fully hydrogenated contains less trans-fat and is less risky.

In all of this, experts warn and urge the world to pay attention to diets. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2021 reported that cardiovascular diseases, CVDs, are the leading cause of deaths globally.

A year earlier, an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs , representing 32% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, 85% were due to heart attack and stroke. The WHO has estimated that there are 500,000 global deaths per year due to coronary heart disease attributed to trans fatty acids.

Hema Khanchandani, a director of advocacy with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) says Nigeria recorded about 3, 229 deaths attributed to Trans-Fat-related cardiovascular diseases in 2019. Foods responsible for such illnesses, include but not limited to the popular chinchin, bean cake, noodles, plantain chips, fried and baked foods, etc.

Regardless of what our daily routine is, it is very important to pay adequate attention to food intake and diet. To avoid the accumulation of trans fatty acids, caution must be applied when consuming foods with partially hydrogenated oil like fries and fried foods. We must be careful with margarine, crackers, packaged and frozen foods and opt instead for fully hydrogenated oil which poses less risk. Palm oil, olive and avocado oil are considered safe to consume in moderation.

You could create a proper work and diet plan for yourself to help you live a fulfilled life. As it is almost impossible to identify foods that are prepared with trans-fat oil without proper labelling and regulations on limit of trans-fat in processed foods, consumption must be done with caution and in moderation.

With cardiovascular disease on the rise, it’s important for NAFDAC and Health Ministry to ensure that these regulations become law so that Nigerians can be aware and have reference point as to regarding their trans-fat consumption, and for industry players to properly monitor them on what they put in the market.

Aderonke is an award-winning journalist, gender, and peace advocate. She currently works as Media and Communications officer on the Trans-Fat free campaign at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)

Source: The Witness, NewsFocus and Exclusive News

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