The fight against NCDs and trans fat


Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have emerged as the leading cause of human mortality and morbidity in low, middle and high-income countries alike and India is not an exception. WHO has flagged off this as a major disaster for future and their control program REPLACE lists out the basic control measures. Food Regulator in India Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also issued a draft notification on eliminating chemical trans fats in food by 2022. NCDs are directly linked with lifestyle, food and diet. Smoking and alcohol consumption adds to the problem. Overweight and obesity are also associated with elevated blood pressure and blood cholesterol resulting in hypertension, diabetes, renal problem along with cardiac arrests.

Food systems have undergone dramatic changes in the past decades. Indian consumers, especially children are influenced not by the nutritional quality of the foods but that which are more affordable and tasty. Excessive intake of sugar, salt, saturated fats and trans fats are the major risk factor of Non-Communicable Diseases. Chemical trans fat is the worst you can eat and it is the leading cause for NCDs. Food loaded with chemical trans fat increases the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women. These include street food, sweets, bakery items and other delicacies which we enjoy and are made in vanaspati oil or hydrogenated vegetable oils loaded with chemical trans fat.

Lifestyle changes have prompted us to increase intake of packaged food in our daily lives which is incidentally loaded with trans fat, salt, sugar and saturated fats. It has increased the rate of NCDs in India. This along with lazy lifestyle has become epidemic and a killer without us realizing it. The economic costs of NCDs are also accelerating worldwide. Hypertension in its passive form is difficult to detect and results in sudden illness or deaths.

The government of India is implementing National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in all the States/UTs under National Health Mission (NHM) to generate awareness on healthy diet. This along with Ayushman Bharat where front line health workers work and clinics are a part of preventive and promotional healthcare strategy. A key focus of the National Health Policy,2017 is on preventive healthcare.  Eat Right India with the slogan of “ Thoda Kam” is the theme of FSSAI through safe, healthy and sustainable diets with less intake of salt, sugar, fats and chemical trans fat.

Consumer organizations need to actively involved in the shaping of policies that influence health along with the government.  NCDs are very difficult to manage with only traditional health measures, but innovative interventions do exist, and can be effectively implemented.  Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) constituted an Expert Group to address the issue of High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) and the ‘Guidelines for making available Wholesome, Nutritious, Safe and Hygienic Food to School Children in India’ should be implemented with strict measures.

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