Experts sound alarm over heart disease-causing trans-fat in Bangladesh

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-11-07 01:15:18 BdST

Bangladeshis are consuming detrimental trans-fatty acids through food, but the issue has remained overlooked for long despite the World Health Organisation guidelines.

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK) raised the alarm on Wednesday at a workshop with journalists.

They also called upon the government to implement WHO’s ‘REPLACE’ action package which has set the target of achieving a world free of industrially produced trans-fat by 2023.

The steps are:

•        REVIEW dietary sources of industrially produced TFA (trans-fatty acid) and the landscape for required policy change;

•        PROMOTE the replacement of industrially produced TFA with healthier oils and fats;

•        LEGISLATE or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially produced TFA;

•        ASSESS and monitor TFA content in the food supply and changes in TFA consumption in the population;

•        CREATE awareness of the negative health impact of TFA among policy-makers, producers, suppliers and the public;

•        ENFORCE compliance with policies and regulations.

Trans-fats are highly detrimental to human health. Excessive level of trans-fat intake increases the risk of heart attacks along with other cardiovascular diseases.

The WHO estimates that 17.9 million people across the globe die of cardiovascular diseases each year, while excessive trans-fat intake is estimated to be responsible for more than 500,000 of these deaths.

In Bangladesh, 277,000 deaths occur each year owing to a variety of heart diseases. The total elimination of trans-fat is the only option to prevent the rising menace of heart diseases as well as to effectively develop the public health.


There are two kinds of sources for Trans Fats or Trans Fatty Acids TFAs.

Naturally occurring TFAs are produced in the rumens of ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, resulting in very low traces of TFA in beef, mutton, dairy milk and dairy products, butter oil/ghee, and butter.

Industrially, TFAs are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils (palm, soybean etc.), converting the liquid oil into semi-solid fats, resulting in Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO). PHOs are the main source of industrially produced Trans Fats (iTFAs),

PHOs are the main source of industrially produced Trans Fats (iTFAs), popularly known as Dalda or Banaspati Ghee, which can contain up to 25-45 percent of TFAs.

Food manufacturers use partially hydrogenated oils to preserve their manufactured foods while it is also used in deep fried and baked foods for adding to the taste, flavour and stability of such processed foods.

TFAs are also produced while deep frying foods using the same oil repeatedly for a long time in high temperature.

Usually restaurants use the same oil for multiple cycles in order to reduce their cost for preparing Singara, Samosa, Puri, Jilapi, Chicken Fries, French fries and other fried foods and ultimately increase the amount of TFAs within these foods.


There is no specific statistics on the average intake of trans-fat by the people in Bangladesh. The demand for edible oils in Bangladesh is mostly met by the import of palm oils and soybean oils.

Dalda is not much used in home cooking. But it is highly used in bakery foods and snacks.

A research conducted on biscuits from 12 different bakeries in Dhaka in 2015 found that those contain 5 percent to 39 percent of trans fat which overwhelmingly exceeds the WHO recommended level of less than 2 percent of total fat.

But recently, the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute and the Institute for Nutrition and Food Science of Dhaka University with support from the Global Health Advocacy Incubator conducted a joint research on trans-fat situation in Bangladesh.

“Hopefully, we will be able to publish that by this month. Once the research findings are published, detailed information regarding the level of trans fat will be available,” Bangladesh Country Coordinator of the Advocacy Incubator Mohammad Ruhul Quddus said.

In 2003, Denmark was the first country in the world to mandate restrictions on TFAs, limiting the level to be not more than 2 percent of the total fat in foods.

Some 28 countries including Austria, Norway, South Africa, Thailand, Iran, and India have already set the maximum permissible level of TFAs which have resulted in a drastic decrease of iTFA in their food items.

In 2011, India implemented a mandatory regulatory level of TFAs in vegetable oils and Banaspati Ghee or Dalda which is a maximum of 10 percent of the total fats and in 2015 the limit was halved and set to 5 percent.

Later in 2018, the Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority declared its plan to further reduce the permissible level of TFAs to 2 percent and eventually eliminate the use of iTFAs in foods.