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How Imported Vegetable Oils Give Nigerians Heart Attack, Stroke –Nutritionist, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi Raises Alarm

How Imported Vegetable Oils Give Nigerians Heart Attack, Stroke –Nutritionist, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi Raises Alarm

A Professor of Community Nutrition at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Prof. Wasiu Afolabi, has called on the Federal Government to do an inventory of all vegetable oils imported into the country.

He said the ultimate goal was to reduce exposure of Nigerians to the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Prof. Afolabi said many Nigerians consume imported vegetable oils that have high level of trans fat, which he said was associated with cardiovascular diseases.

The specialist advised Nigerians to watch their diet and avoid the consumption of foods containing trans fats and ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Trans fat, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, according to online sources, is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in small amounts in meat and milk fat.

The World Health Organisation estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, stressing that eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives.

In 2018, the WHO released a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply, considering its associated health risk.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Prof. Afolabi said,

“There is quite a number of vegetable oils that are imported into the country that have high level of trans fat. That trans fat and ‘bad’ cholesterol put people at the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“The Federal Government needs to do an inventory of all the vegetable oils that are imported into the country so that consumers will not be laden with ‘bad’ cholesterol.

“Most people do not know the danger in consuming these oils and that is why they have to be careful about the vegetable oil that they buy and consume.

“There are some confectioneries which are produced using hydrogenated oils and most of them are not produced in the country.”

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Giving insight into the dangers associated with consumption of diet laden with trans fat, the nutritionist said,

“High level of trans fat consumption in most of our processed foods and in most of partially hydrogenated oils that are produced by industries for household use and for industrial food processing and manufacturing have been found to contribute to high risk of cardiovascular diseases which include stroke and heart attacks.

“Nigerians must realise that diet laden with trans fat increases their risk of heart attacks and all diseases that are associated with the heart including narrowing of the arterial wall such that limit pumping of blood into the heart.

“All these can lead to stoppage of the heart suddenly which is usually referred to as heart attack. That is the major risk that we have in consumption of high trans fat.”

The professor reiterated that quite a number of vegetable oils imported into the country have high trans fat. He explained:

“That is why in recent, the Nigerian Heart Foundation worked in collaboration with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to do a certification of some vegetable oils in the country to ensure we have a heart friendly oil with low level of trans fat and cholesterol which are known to contribute to heart diseases.

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“There are even vegetable oils produced in the country that we need to be sure of the processing method whether they have high content of trans fat or not.

“Then those ones that are imported, we must regulate them and be sure that they don’t reduce the content of trans fat to less than two grams that the WHO has recommended.

“Another option is a total elimination and where it is not possible, you create a bench mark.

“Countries are to decide whether is total elimination or reduce to a certain level that can be called safe.”

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Prof. Afolabi therefore, urged Nigerians to ensure that the vegetable oil they use in preparing their foods is not high in trans fat and to also read food labels before purchasing them especially processed foods.

A member of a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi had, in March, said except legislation is put in place to checkmate the food industry and use of industrially-produced trans fat, another major public health crisis may berth. Oluwafemi said:

“The issue of trans-fat is the story of a slow poison in our food chain. We can no longer fold our arms and watch our lives cut short by this deadly product. The government must wake up and act, the citizens also must act by rejecting foods with trans-fat.”

He noted that the coalition is pressurising NAFDAC to approve the Fats and Oils Regulation 2019. The US Food and Drug Administration in 2013, said partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe in human food.

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