JEDDAH: The Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah has said that all hydrogenated oils will be banned in the Kingdom by 2020.
The minister noted that the number of cardiac centers across the country had tripled since 2016, and so had the number of heart catheterizations.
The Ministry of Health had previously warned members of the public of the health risks associated with partially hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats,” which can lead to high cholesterol, artery blockage, hypertension and diabetes.
Hydrogenation of oils occurs by heating oil for up to eight hours below 400 degrees, removing vitamins and nutrients to increase longevity.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) urged food importers and manufacturers to comply with the new requirements which will be effective in 2020 and ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food products.
Dr. Ruwaida Idris said hydrogenated oils are used in almost all processed foods, and many companies prefer to use them oils because of their low cost and long shelf life, despite their dangerous side-effects.
“Hydrogenated vegetable oils contain oils extracted from plants such as olives, sunflowers, and soya beans. The particles of hydrogen are added to change the chemical structure, (increasing the) useful life of the final product,” she explained.
Doctors warn against the use of hydrogenated oils because they can increase the level of bad cholesterol, which can accumulate on arterial walls and cause blockages. Idris added that bad cholesterol can also cause blood clots and cardiac arrests as well as strokes.
Although many countries restrict the use of hydrogenated oil, it still can be found in canned food. Idris’s advised the public to read the ingredients of canned food before purchasing it, and said restaurants should use high oleic sunflower oil, high oleic canola oil, and safflower oils instead.
Global obesity rates have tripled since 1975, especially among children and adults, while the number of diabetics has increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.