The best way to protect your heart is to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle and eat less trans fats, say experts at the Health Essayists and Authors League and Diabetes Foundation (India).
"Excessive intake of trans fatty acids pose a risk for development of diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases for people in their early twenties and thirties," the experts said, adding that trans fats pose even greater health threat than saturated fats.
"We have demonstrated that 13-25 per cent of urban Indian adolescents have high levels of C-reactive protein, contributed by intake of trans fatty acids, which would predispose them to early development of diabetes and CVDs," said Anoop Mishra, director and department head of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Hospitals, New Delhi.
Trans fatty acids are one of the strongest 'diet poisons affecting human metabolism today,' Mishra said.
A comprehensive review of studies done on trans fats, published in 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that there is a strong and reliable connection between trans fat consumption and coronary heart disease, Mishra said.
Trans fat, found in fast food products made with hydrogenated oil in an unregulated market, is already a `time bomb' ticking to explode even as the Union Health Ministry is contemplating for processed food manufacturers to list the trans fat content on nutrition labels.
"At a time when our country is passing through health transition with the metabolic syndrome looming large, we must take stock of the situation and act speedily," said B Sivakumar, former deputy director, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
Most of the trans fats we eat today are formed during the partial hydrogenation of oils.
This increases the level of low-density lipoprotein known as 'bad' LDL cholesterol or triglycerides, and decreases 'good' HDL cholesterol. This, in turn, causes pro-inflammatory effects, the experts said.
Partially hydrogenated oils change the inherent chemical makeup of the fat, making it less heart friendly with longer shelf lives, they said.
In European countries, an intake less than 5g of trans fats or less than two per cent trans fat energy intake is considered acceptable. On the other hand WHO (2003) and other agencies (Canadian Expert Committee, 2006) recommended less than one per cent total energy intake.
Denmark was the first country, which regulated trans fat content in 2004 and within two years, there was reduction of trans fat intake from over 30 g to less than 6g. Such decrease in trans fat intake was associated with a dramatic decline of 20 per cent in the mortality due to CVDs.
US FDA began trans fats listings on food labels in January 2006, food producers have made a conscious effort to reduce their use of it and to find alternative fat sources.Some of food companies are modifying their products to conform to international guideline on their own and declaring the trans fat content on labels.