Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Heart health advocates gain ground but fight for Trans Fat-free PH is on


They say a good start is half the battle, and with Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order (AO) 2021-0039 going into effect on June 19, 2023, the campaign to eliminate industrially manufactured trans fatty acids is off to a solid start acids (iTFA) in the country has reached a watershed moment.

Enacted two years ago, AO 2021-0039 mandated food manufacturers to eliminate iTFA from their pre-  packaged and processsed products, with this policy coming to fruition on the 19th. Following the DOH's iTFA ban, the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) continues to be aggressive in the ongoing campaign for a Trans Fat-free nation, increasing awareness about the cardiovascular threat. On June 28, PHA Director III and Advocacy Committee Chair Dr. Luigi Segundo presented its weekly Usapang Puso sa Puso webinar.

Dr. Louella Santos, cardiologist and lipidologist and president of the Philippine Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society, explained the nature of cholesterol as well as the dangers of iTFA.
Total cholesterol is measured via a blood test and consists of three components: triglycerides, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

“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 shelflife of products, thus the terms “hydrogenated oils” and “partially hydrogenated oils” seen in the ingredients of some products indicate the presence of TF.

Santos went on to say that foods strong in mono or polyunsaturated fats are what raise HDL levels, and that it is critical to get a lipid profile early on because high cholesterol is silent, appearing in symptoms such as fatigue.

Blockages can be fatal. Segundo, who echoed the importance of risk factor screening, stated that even if you don't feel anything out of the norm, getting tested is critical for preventative treatment.

He also stated that the PHA's Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy, 52100 (five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, no more than 2 grams of salt, an hour of exercise per day, no smoking, and no sugary drinks) is a feasible option. means of keeping the risk variables at bay.

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

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 Service Organizations (CSOs) in their campaign.

Project Manager for the Trans Fat Elimination initiative Atty. Mikhail Millan 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. Atty. 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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