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How healthy is your cooking oil?

health-and-fitness Updated: Feb 04, 2009 02:03 IST
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You may be better off using butter instead of cooking oil, suggests a new study released in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-governmental organisation, tested 30 edible oils for artery clogging trans fat and found their levels in vanaspati between five and 12 times higher than the standards in Denmark, the only country to have a standard for trans fat in edible oils.

Trans fats in refined oils were double the Danish standard. The human body cannot break down trans fats, so they accumulate and increase the risk of heart attack and diabetes by raising levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

Oil’s not well
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are harmful fats that can enhance the risk of heart disorders, diabetes and, in some cases, Alzheimer’s. They are made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil.
No standard: India has no standards for edible oil. In 2004, a Ministry of Health sub-committee recommended 30% for 2007, 15% for 2008 and 5% for 2009 onwards. The recommendations have not been accepted.
Denmark’s limit for trans fats. It's the only country to have a standard for trans fats in edible oils.
In the US, New York City, California have banned trans fats from restaurants and bakeries.
Several states in the US have banned trans fats from restaurant products and bakeries.

“No amount of trans fat is safe and it should be completely eliminated from the diet,” said Dr Ashok Seth, chairman, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre. “Most of us don’t realise how much we eat as trans fats are there in most oils and all packaged food.”

The health ministry has ruled out a ban on vanaspatis, saying there are no substitutes available for these affordable edible oils.

“Trans fats are a danger to health but in a country where there is under- and over-nutrition, we cannot completely ban it,” said Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. “Proper labelling laws are being formulated, which include listing the amount of trans fat present in the product.”

The newly-established Food Control Authority will examine the CSE report and give recommendations and suggest alternatives, said Ramadoss.

Surprisingly, the CSE study found that actual trans fats content in oils was lower than what the labels stated.

“The Rath label claim said its trans fat content was between 15 to 55 per cent but it was actually 15.9 per cent, and Dalda claims it is between 7 to 33 per cent, but it is actually 9.4 per cent,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE. “The margins are huge. The labels should tell the consumers the exact amount, with little variation being allowed.”

The NGO last shot to fame for finding pesticide in soft drinks, including big brands such as Coke and Pepsi.

B.V. Mehta, president of Solvent Extractors Associa-tion, the body of edible oil manufacturers, claimed there is no trans fat in refined oil but admitted its presence in vanaspati. “I cannot comment on the contents of the report until I see the findings,” he said.

The study recommended that in the existing climate of misinformation, the best oil is the one used in moderation and switched frequently to get maximum nutrition value. “Doctors recommend two dishes on your table should be cooked in different oils,” said Chandra Bhushan, associate director, CSE. “One may be in refined oil and another in ghee to provide correct quantity of oil to the human body.”