Pakistan has the second-highest per capita intake of Trans Fats (TFA) across the globe, states the report, ‘Assessment of Dietary Risk Factors Associated with NCDs in Pakistan and Strategies to Reduce their Burden,’ which will be presented today at an event co-hosted by the Ministry of National Health Services, the World Health Organization, and Heartfile.
The report has called for strong action to reduce or eliminate the high content of trans fats, sugar, saturated fats, and salt in food items. The compounds are key dietary risk factors for mortality linked with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
According to the statistics, 540,000 deaths every year across the globe occur because of industrially-produced trans fats (TFA). And the TFA-associated mortality rate can be even higher in Pakistan because of the high intake of these fats.
The elimination of TFA from the food supply is one of the priority targets for WHO in 2019-23. In lieu of that, the Ministry of National Health Services has decided to assess the contents of diet-based risk factors linked to NCDs in the processed foods in collaboration with WHO.
The study has been conducted to identify the dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, and salt in Pakistan. It aims at determining the prevailing fats and oils, including the import of foods high in trans fats, to gather key stakeholders working on the subject, and to review the existing policy environment for trans fats control, saturated fats, sugar and salt in the diet.
While Pakistan is identified among the countries having a high consumption of hydrogenated fats rich in saturated fats, the consumption of saturated fats still needs to be recorded in the real manner. According to the estimate, the salt intake by Pakistani people twice that of the recommended (5g/person/day) value.
High sodium level can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), while sugar-rich foods lead to diabetes and obesity. These NCDs are a major cause of human mortality in Pakistan, i.e., 58 percent deaths per year.
The study reveals that fat items, potentially rich in trans fats, are being imported in small quantities. It stated that the threat related to locally manufactured Vanaspati ghee is bigger than that linked with the imports.
The study points out that the regulatory framework is a vital tool to contain the threat of diet-based risk factors linked with NCD. It states that in Pakistan, the legislative framework for food (federal and provincial food authorities) exists or is about to slap a cap on the trans fats in the diet.
However, the national standards set by Pakistani authorities are not at par to the trans fat limits imposed by other nations in the world.