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There is no denying the fact that the rising incidence of heart diseases in the country calls for immediate action. Given the Indian appetite for all things tasty and the "rich and oily" nature of Indian cuisine, cardiologists in the city say that one the keys to preventing heart problems is in using the right kind of edible oil.

Dr Brian Pinto said, "I strongly believe that edible oils with high antioxidant power could be an excellent preventive approach, and considering the high consumption of edible oils in the country, it would help in tackling the problem at its root." Experts had congregated at the third National Health Writers and Editors Convention organized by HEAL Foundation on August 30 and 31. They stressed upon the importance of high potency of antioxidants in cooking oil and identified it as an imperative approach to preventing heart diseases.

Endocrinologists, cardiologists and diet experts present at the convention unanimously agreed that cooking oil with high potency of antioxidants help scavenge free radicals. And this scavenging process helps reduce the Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) risk. Primarily, antioxidants are required by the body to scavenge and neutralise free radicals, which are harmful agents generated by any oxidative process including metabolism in the body. Free radicals can have damaging effect on various cells, especially the heart, thereby increasing the risk of CVD. Antioxidants absorb free radicals and reduce cell damage, which helps control heart diseases.

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This is important, considering that in India, 10 per cent of the population is affected by CVDs. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), heart diseases will be the single "greatest killer" in India by 2015.

Talking about the widespread damage inflicted by free radicals, endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi said, "Environmental factors such as air pollution, ionising radiation and cigarette smoke induce the formation of free radicals in the body. Antioxidants help in nullifying their effect, preventing a host of degenerative diseases such as CVD, diabetes and cancer." He stressed upon the need to include external sources of antioxidants in the diet.

Experts said while it is necessary to ensure the right quantity of oil while cooking, it is more important to choose the right quality of oil. It is imperative to choose a cooking oil with the highest antioxidant power so as to maximise the benefit of antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants, in turn, help minimise the risk of CVDs.

Antioxidants also help maintain the stability of cooking oils. Dr Joshi said, "In Indian cooking conditions, the quality of oil is severely damaged due to the formation of free radicals. Antioxidants can be a valuable additions to improve oil health. The potency of antioxidants used for fortifying the oil will also help in maintaining the oil's on-shelf quality, making cooking oils heart-friendly."

He added that blended oils fortified with antioxidants are found to be more effective, since they give the goodness of two oils in one, thus giving the benefits of a broader range of antioxidants. A broader range of antioxidants is more effective in countering free radicals than antioxidants of a single kind usually found in single-seed oils.

"Since the antioxidant constituents of oils vary, blending is immensely beneficial in covering the entire range of antioxidants required to ensure scavenging of free radicals. In fact, to achieve adequate intake of all fatty acids, National Institute of Nutrition also recommends blending two or more vegetable oils," said

Niti Desai, a consultant nutritionist from Mumbai.

The Indian Express
11 Sep 2013

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