Dr Phyllis Addo, a Lecturer at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) says trans-fatty acids (TFAs) in imported and locally produced foods could be a problem in Ghana if regulations are not put in place to control it.
She said the Ghanaian markets have been flooded with imported processed foods that were generally known to contain some amount of TFAs, citing margarines, baked products, cookies among others as examples.
Dr Addo made the assertion when she presented a study on TFAs in Ghanaian foods, especially plantain chips at the launch of TFA elimination campaign project by the Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA), a non-profit civil society organization in Accra.
She said transition and lifestyle changes including poor diets were contributing to metabolic diseases, were currently on the rise in Ghana.
The sources of trans fatty acids are industrial hydrogenation of oils.
She said in Ghana, major causes of death have shifted from communicable diseases to a combination of communicable and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) over the last few decades, adding that, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, and cancers have become the top 10 causes of death.
“In Ghana, there is no chronic disease policy or integrated plan, and the current draft of the food and nutrition policy does not capture trans fatty acids,” Dr Addo noted.
She said during the research, majority of Ghanaians had never heard or read about TFA and only a few knew of the link between intake of TFA and diseases like cancers, diabetes, hypertension; and the general poor practices regarding usage of cooking oils.
“Plantain chips sold within the Accra Metropolis contain some amount of TFA and have high fat content. The population intake of TFA in plantain chips were considerably low compared to recommended limit,” she stated.
She urged the public to consider the risk that accompanied the excessive consumption of this snack.
The Lecturer said the research was the first of its kind in Ghana and probably in West Africa and that it was hoped that the results would fill the existing gap in information while contributing to scientific knowledge that could inform stakeholders in TFA risk management.
“It would serve the need for a further detailed assessment to establish the link between TFA intake and diet-related NCDs and would provide a premise for raising awareness of TFA through nutrition education and campaign,” she added.