In recent decades, the percentage of people reported with coronary heart diseases (CHD) has been increasing. This is prominently seen among people living in urbanised South Asian countries (people in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and those staying overseas). Apart from lifestyle patterns and environmental conditions, another leading factor to higher CHD strata in South Asian countries is their food habits. The traditional food preparation involves deep frying and cooking foods for a prolonged time. Unlike the cuisine of East Asian countries where a food is prepared by steaming and boiling, the high-temperature cooking patterns are a major factor in increasing risk of CHD susceptibility.
Cooking food above the temperature of 150⁰ C leads to a change in the chemical nature of the food and promotes the formation of neo-formed contaminants (NFCs) such as trans-fatty acids (TFA) and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Many types of research have established a link higher TFAs increasing low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C or bad cholesterol) and decreasing high density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C or good cholesterol). With decreased HDL-C levels, bad cholesterol starts accumulating in the blood and forms a plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart. This, in turn, restricts blood flow in the arteries and results in serious medical conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, Diabetes and coronary artery disease (CAD).
Traditional food in the Indian subcontinent is rich in fat content due to excessive use of products like ghee (clarified butter), vanaspati (partially hydrogenated fat), butter and oil. From traditional to fast food, spices and fat occupy a major role in food preparation. A majority of dishes in the Indian subcontinent are cooked in sauce, which is prepared by frying the base ingredients. This method leads to a formation of NFCs in the food. Hot beverages like tea and coffee in the Indian subcontinent are mostly consumed with the inclusion of milk. This is also one of the contributing factors for increased cholesterol levels.
A consistent rise in the demand for western-style snacks, such as fried burger, fired noodles etc. has been noted in India. A comparative study on the NFCs percentage in western-style snacks and Chinese snacks has concluded that 80 per cent of the western-style snacks has higher TFAs in comparison to the 67 per cent of Chinese snacks. Where these studies are a reason enough for the South Asian countries to take heed and bring about a significant change in their diet, other attributes such as regular exercise regime and medical follow-up are also highly recommended.
Source: Nutrition Journal