Heart Health Advocates Gain Ground as Fight for Trans Fat-free Philippines is On

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  • GYNNA GAGELONIA, Philippine Heart Association (PHA) Media Facilitator

MANILA — They say a good beginning is half the battle, and with Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order (AO) 2021-0039 taking effect on June 19, 2023, the campaign to abolish industrially produced trans fatty acids (iTFA) in the country, has marked a milestone.

Enacted two years ago, AO 2021-0039 mandated food manufacturers to eliminate iTFA from their pre-packaged and processed products, with this policy coming to fruition on the 19th of June.

Hot on the heels of the DOH’s iTFA prohibition, the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) remains proactive in the on-going fight for a Trans Fat-free nation, raising awareness on the cardiovascular threat during its monthly “Usapang Puso sa Puso” webinar on June 28, hosted by PHA Director III and Advocacy Committee Chair Dr. Luigi Segundo.

Screenshot by SDN — SciTech and Digital News from UPP, June 28, Wednesday.

Dr. Louella Santos, a cardiologist and lipidologist, president of the Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society (PLAS), explained the nature of cholesterol, and the dangerous nature of iTFA.

She said that Total Cholesterol is checked during a blood test, and has three components, namely, triglycerides, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

Trans fats are scariest type fat

“Triglycerides come from sugar, flour, white rice, bread, and desserts to name a few. HDL is good cholesterol, LDL is bad cholesterol or Lechon de Leche, which we avoid because it clogs our arteries and could lead to either a heart attack or stroke.”

Citing it as the scariest type of fat, Trans Fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils in order to extend the shelf life of products, thus the terms “hydrogenated oils” and “partially hydrogenated oils” seen in the ingredients of some products indicate the presence of TF.

Santos further stressed that food with mono or poly unsaturated fats are what increase HDL levels, and that it imperative to get a lipid profile early on because high cholesterol is asymptomatic, manifesting in potentially fatal blockages.

Segundo, who echoed the value of undergoing risk factor screening, said even without feeling anything out of the ordinary, getting checked is crucial for preventive care.

He added that the PHA’s Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy, 52100 (five servings of fruits & vegetables, not more than two grams of sodium, an hour of exercise, zero smoking, and zero sugary drinks, daily) is a viable means of keeping the risk factors at bay.

“Risk prevention is comprehensive. 52100 is important, and even if cholesterol isn’t mentioned, 52100 addresses cholesterol issues through a healthy lifestyle,” Segundo said.

As a public interest group, ImagineLaw has been advocating for the total eradication of Trans Fat in the country, and has partnered with the PHA, government, and other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in their campaign.

Atty. Mikhail Millan, project manager for the Trans Fat Elimination initiative,  spoke of how it was a “multi-sectoral effort” that led to the current ban.

However, while the DOH AO has come to fruition, legislation that would completely outlaw TFs in the Philippines remains under scrutiny in Congress and the Senate.

Both Senate Bill 1286 and House Bill 8128 (Trans Fat-Free Philippine Act) remain pending in Senate Committees.

Milan referred to the ban on iTFA as “a victory for the Filipino Heart”, while the launching of the Bantay Kontra Trans Fat Network initiative of health advocates was also announced with the aim of monitoring compliance with the ban. He also called on all Filipinos to join in the efforts to enforce AO 2021-0039 by reporting any products or manufacturers that deviate.

“Two ways to report. The official one is on the FDA website for any violations, but we can also visit Trans Fat Free Philippines on FB, to act as a hotline for any reports. Since June 19, we’ve received a lot of reports of possible violations. We need three things to send sa FB: name of store and city or municipality where it was bought, date, clear pic of the brand and the nutrient label of the product.”

For Segundo, a country free from the dangers of Trans Fat is a goal that everyone must come together to achieve; a vision that is all encompassing. (/)

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