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Fats, FSSAI Experts, Or My Effective Diet: Who Won Health Race?

After reading a book by nutrition experts, Satyendra Garg was quite surprised to see a contrasting combo between the book and his diet bringing effective results

Satyendra Garg | Dec 09, 2020

Shri Arun Singhal is a close friend and civil service batchmate. Both of us had joined Civil services way back on 24th August, 1987. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, FSSAI.

On 26th of October this year, he sent a link to a copy of the nutrition book “Do you Eat Right?” in our civil service batchmates group to learn more about oils and how to use it responsibly at home, published by FSSAI.

Being interested in the topic of nutrition, I downloaded a copy of the publication and read it very closely. This is a 136-page book on the subject of nutrition and health and, beside other important things, says: Excess fat intake is a clear risk factor for obesity and Non Communicable Diseases like diabetes and heart diseases.

Calories from fats should be maximum of 25% of total calories intake for the day. 500 calories should be from fats, both visible and invisible fats, including nuts, oilseeds, milk, eggs and fish.

Easier way would be to stick to about 20-25 ml (4 teaspoons) of visible fat per person per day and avoiding processed foods that are high in fats.
Limit the use of butter and ghee.

Fat is vital to help us lead healthy, productive lives. Dietary fats supply us with energy. Certain essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
are linked to the production of many chemicals in the brain and their deficiency can play havoc with our mood.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids are primarily of two types: omega 6 and omega 3. These are called essential fatty acids because we cannot live without them and the body cannot make them indigenously. Like vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, we must get them from the foods we
eat. While we need both omega 3 and omega 6, an imbalance between them can lead to inflammation in the body. The ideal ratio of essential fatty
acids, linoleic acid, omega 6: linolenic acid omega 3 should be 5-10:1 but today the ratio stands around 15:1, that is we are consuming way too much
of omega 6 which is extremely unhealthy.

Instead of banning Saturated Fatty Acids like unsalted butter and ghee from our diet, we take them in moderate amounts. Saturated fats are found in red meat, poultry, butter, cheese, full fat dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil and ghee.

The book says that the above knowledge has been extracted from the vast scientific literature, often inaccessible to most people, and practical wisdom
of experts and professionals in the area of food and nutrition.

The above information concludes that we should reduce intake of fat to about 25% of total calories and in terms of quantity it should be restricted to
20-25 milliliters making about 4-5 teaspoons of visible fat as the rest of the fat comes to us through invisible fat from milk, eggs and nuts we eat.
I respect the knowledge and wisdom of experts which has gone into making this book on nutrition. It definitely will contribute to healthy living
and improving the health of millions of people.

My experience in the last about two years has been different from this knowledge and wisdom. Since February, 2019 when I had high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low HDL, prediabetes and fatty liver Grade II, after careful consideration, I made the following changes in my diet: increased content of saturated fat to about 50 ml in the form of ghee and coconut oil, consumption of about 20 ml of omega 3 rich flaxseed oil, totally giving up omega 6 rich vegetable oils, apart from large intake cheese, milk and curd rich in fat. This way my consumption of fats exceeded more than 100 ml everyday, meaning about 4-5 times of the limit being suggested by FSSAI. In the last about two years I have had wonderful improvements in my health. My LDL is in the ideal range, HDL has come to the desirable level, Triglycerides has reduced from 226 to 113, HbA1C has come down from 6 to 5.6 and fatty liver has reversed from GradeII to Grade I. While for nearly 20 years I was on medicines for high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, for about the last 2 years when I modified my diet, I have not taken medicines for these lifestyle diseases.

When I met Mr. Singhal in his office recently I mentioned this to him and suggested some interaction with experts who can study my case and see whether the diet I have been taking with lots of advantage makes any sense.

He liked the idea and I am waiting for an opportunity to meet the experts and learn from their wisdom.

(The author is an IPS Officer of 1987 batch)