Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2013, 4, 1281-1286
Published Online December 2013 (
Open Access FNS
Assessment of Trans Fatty Acid Content in Widely
Consumed Snacks by Gas Chromatography in a
Developing Country
Smita Karn, Ransi Ann Abraham, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan*
Department of Cardiac Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
Email:,, *
Received August 19th, 2013; revised September 19th, 2013; accepted September 26th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Smita Karn et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. In accor-
dance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights © 2013 are reserved for SCIRP and the owner of the intellectual
property Smita Karn et al. All Copyright © 2013 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Trans fatty acids have adverse effects on health, so knowledge of their contents in foods would enable people to make
informed food choices. TFA levels when not available in food composition tables make it difficult to estimate dietary
intake. With the aim to analyze and identify the actual amount of trans fatty acid present in selected Indian fast food
items, triplicate samples of six commonly consumed snacks as well as the oil used for preparing the same were col-
lected from three different places. The separation of fatty acid was done using gas chromatography. Trans fatty acid
isomers of oleic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid were identified in all food items. The predominant trans fatty acid
present in all the food items was elaidic acid (18:1t9). The total trans fatty acids in different food items ranged from
almost negligible to as high as 14.58 g/100g food. Different amount of TFA was found in same food category sourced
from different outlets which is a challenge in making regulations aimed at TFA reduction so as to decrease health risk.
Keywords: Trans Fatty Acid; Gas Chromatography; Snack; Health Risk
1. Introduction
There are growing concerns for potential health effects of
trans fatty acid (TFA) particularly those that are derived
from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO).
PHVO offers an attractive option for food industry be-
cause of their long shelf life, their stability during deep-
frying and their semisolidity, which enhances the palat-
ability of baked goods and sweets [1]. PHVO contributes
to TFA intake, which can be up to 40% [2,3]. In India,
fast foods/street foods are becoming part of our lifestyle
and 400,000 tonnes of snacks are consumed every year.
The Indian National Sample Survey Organization, India
shows that consumption of beverages, biscuits, processed
foods, salted snacks, prepared sweets and other pur-
chased foods ranged from 100 - 427 gm/ capita/day. Ma-
jor dietary sources of TFA in India are deep fried fast
foods such as samosas, baked products, packed snack
foods, margarines and crackers [4,5]. The deep fried
foods, unlike packaged snacks which display their nutri-
tive value on packets, are commonly sold by vendors and
difficult to be brought under regulations. However efforts
can be made to reduce their trans fatty acid content based
on actual data obtained by direct measurement.
The Centre for Sciences and Environment study has
reported TFA levels 5 to 12 times higher in the oils con-
sumed in India as compared to the world standard for
trans fats in oil [3]. Most of the fatty acid enters our diet
through oil used in household cooking, restaurant, as
well as the deep fried fast food like samosa, pakora etc.
which are consumed widely. High TFA content (1.9% -
53%) has been reported in Indian sweets and savor-
ies/snacks by Agrawal et al. [5]. The authors derived the
amount of TFA by calculating nutritive values of raw
material such as oil and fats used in recipes, which is
secondary in nature. The usual methods for dietary
measures of TFA are food frequency questionnaire, diet
histories and food records which have inherent short-
comings. The increasing complexity of the food supply
and the availability of a wide range of manufactured and
*Corresponding author.
Assessment of Trans Fatty Acid Content in Widely Consumed Snacks by Gas Chromatography in a Developing Country
processed foods, coupled with variations in the fats and
oils used by the food industry make the compilation of
the fatty acid composition of foods difficult [6]. Also
during cooking many changes occur that can potentially
influence TFA content in food. Lack of an accurate and
comprehensive database on the trans fatty acid composi-
tion of food particular to a region is often a hurdle in
nutritional studies. Databases on trans fatty acids when-
ever available are scarce, scattered and outdated. Hence a
pilot study was undertaken to assess the trans fatty acid
content, by gas chromatography, of selected commonly
consumed savories/sweets in India.
2. Material and Methods
2.1. Sample Collection
Based on a survey conducted in 2002-2003 among in-
dustrial population of Delhi [7] six commonly consumed
snacks, Balushahi [flour, ghee or PHVO, yogurt in sugar
syrup], Laddu [balls of flour, sugar and Ghee or PHVO],
Mathari [deep fried flour with shortening], Bhatura [fried
flour with shortening], Bread Pakora [Fried chickpea
flour and vegetables with bread] and Samosa [deep-fried
pastry containing vegetable or meat] and widely used
bakery items such as cake, biscuits and bread, known to
be potentially high in TFA were identified for analysis.
Triplicate samples of food were purchased from three
different places i.e. 1) branded sweet shops, 2) local
sweet shop and 3) roadside vendors on a random basis
for analysis of their TFA content. Oil samples, used in
preparation of fried items such as Balushahi, Mathari,
Bhatura, Bread Pakora, and Samosa were also collected
at the time of purchasing the food samples and were
processed and analyzed in triplicate. All the food samples
were weighed and stored at 70˚C temperature until fur-
ther analysis.
2.2. Fatty Acid Estimation
Fat was extracted from food items using the AOAC Offi-
cial Method SM 996.06, AOAC Official Method 969.33
[8]. An accurately weighed 1 g homogenized food sam-
ple was mixed with 2.0 ml ethanol, the entire product
was dispersed in 10.0 ml of 8.3 M HCl. 2 ml of triunde-
canoic acid (5 mg triundecanoic acid in 1 ml CHCl3) was
used as the internal standard. The tubes were incubated
for 60 minutes at 80˚C in a water bath with intermittent
mixing every 10 min. After digestion, the test tubes were
allowed to cool at room temperature. 2 ml ethanol was
added through the sides of the tube, mixed for 1 minute
followed by 25 ml diethyl ether and again mixed for 5
minutes. 25 ml petroleum ether was added, mixed for 5
minutes and allowed to remain for 1 hour until the upper
ether phase becomes clear. The upper phase was trans-
ferred into 150 ml beaker and dried slowly under Nitro-
gen stream. The extracted fat was weighed and trans-
ferred into a glass vial with 3 ml chloroform and 3 ml
diethyl ether and dried again. 2 ml of 7% Boron tri fluo-
ride (BF3), methylating agent, and 1 ml toluene was then
added with intermittent mixing to the extracted fat and
heated at 100˚C for 45 minutes to convert the fat into
fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). After methylation, 1 g
sodium sulfate solution was added to remove moisture
content. Esters were extracted with 1 ml hexane trans-
ferred into 2 ml vial (Teflon capped) and loaded on gas
chromatography (GC) after appropriate dilutions.
Fatty acid methyl ester of the oil samples was prepared
according to AOAC Official Method 969.33 with modi-
fication [9]. Accurately weighed 200 mg oil sample
along with 4 ml of Methanolic Sodium Hydroxide (0.5 M)
were placed at 100˚C temperature (in oven or water bath)
and heated for 2 minutes to saponify the lipid (a few
glass beads was added to prevent bumping while heating).
The tubes were then cooled and 5 ml boron trifluoride
(BF3) a methylating agent was added. To this tube, 2 mL
hexane and 15 ml saturated NaCl solution was added
followed by vigorous mixing for 15 seconds. The upper
layer was transferred into 2 ml sample vial (Teflon
capped) and loaded on GC with appropriate dilution.
2.3. Gas Chromatographic Analysis
The fatty acid methyl esters were run on gas chromatog-
raphy (GC) which was equipped with a flame-ionization
detector. Fused silica capillary cis/trans column SP 2560,
100 m × 250 μm internal diameters × 0.20 μm film was
used (Supelco, Belefonte, Pennsylvania). The following
temperature programme was used for optimal separation
of fatty acids including trans fatty acids: initial oven
temperature was 140˚C, hold time was for 5 minutes;
ramp 1˚C/min; final temperature was 250˚C; hold time
was 25 minutes, and total run time was 120 minutes. In-
jector port was 225˚C; Detector port was 260˚C; and the
gas rates used were 0.3 ml/min carrier gas (Nitrogen), 15
ml/min make up gas (Nitrogen) and 35 and 350 ml/min
flame gases hydrogen and air, respectively. A split ratio
of 1:10 and an injection volume of 1 μl were used. The
fatty acid composition was determined by comparing
their retention times with those of known standards (fatty
acid methyl esters from SUPELCO). Each peak was
quantified by calculating the area under the peak using
software from AIMIL (Nucon Technologies). The con-
centration of individual fatty acid was expressed as per-
centage of total area under the peak. A total of 22 fatty
acids were identified in the samples and grouped into
saturated fatty acid (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acid
(MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and trans
fatty acid (TFA). The SFA included C14:0, C16:0 and
Open Access FNS
Assessment of Trans Fatty Acid Content in Widely Consumed Snacks by Gas Chromatography in a Developing Country
Open Access FNS
C18:0, the MUFA included C16:1, C18:1 and C22:1 and
the PUFA comprised of three fatty acids: C18:2, C18:3
n-6 and C18:3 n-3. The TFA included C16:1t, C18:1t9,
C18:2tt, C18:2tc, C18:2ct, C18:3ttt, C18:3ttc, C18:3tct,
C18:3ctt, C18:3cct, C18:3ctc, C18:3tcc and C22:1t.
Trans fatty acid was expressed as g/100g food.
3. Results
A total of 27 food samples were collected and the sam-
ples were analyzed in triplicate. Average recovery of
internal standard, triundecanoic acid (C11:0), added to
the food items before extraction was 89% (Range: 86%
to 94%). The median and interquartile range of fatty acid
for the food items is given in Tables 1 and 2 and that for
oil is given in Table 3. Figure 1 and 2 show the repre-
sentative chromatogram of one snack (Balushahi) and the
corresponding oil used for its preparation. The SFA,
PUFA and MUFA content in the oil showed wide varia-
tion. Highest amount of TFA content was found in
Mathari (7.33 g/100g, range 4.88 g/100g to 13.56/100g)
and the level of TFA in the oil used for frying Mathari
was 6 g/100g (range: 3.4 g/100g to 7.2 g/100g) whereas
lowest TFA was observed in samosa 0.25 g/100g (0.21
g/100g - 3.65 g/100g) and their levels in oil ranged from
1.88 g/100g to 9.12 g/100g.
4. Discussion
The total trans fatty acids in different food ranged from
almost negligible to levels as high as 14.58 g/100g food,
while the TFA levels in oil samples ranged from 1.64
g/100g to 9.47 g/100g. The predominant trans fatty acid
present in the food items was elaidic acid (18:1t9). Dif-
ferent amount of TFA was found in same food item
sourced from different outlets such as branded sweet
Table 1. Fatty acid composition of selected food.
Snacks TFA % of fat SFA % of fat MUFA % of fat PUFA % of fat
Laddu 22.53 (18.2 - 26.6) 67.71 (52.6 - 74.7) 5.9 (5.6 - 8.3) 3.84 (1.99 - 4.61)
Balushahi 10.5 (2.03 - 28.8) 78.37 (53.8 - 87.1) 4.7 (3.1 - 8) 2.78 (2.64 - 4.17)
Mathari 13.54 (11 - 21.23) 67.7 (57.4 - 71.8) 31.05 (29.5 - 31.9) 4.7 (2.62 - 9.6)
Bhatura 8 (7.58 - 22.76) 54.5 (47.5 - 63) 22 (8.65 - 27.95) 11.6 (2.87 - 14.6)
Bread Pakora 2.19 (0.7 - 2.55) 70.7 (47 - 87) 4.4 (3.6 - 6.86) 20.9 (1.53 - 46.4)
Samosa 1.23 (1.2 - 18.1) 55.6 (6 - 65.5) 18.4 (8.8 - 30.4) 11.2 (1.85 - 45.3)
Cake 13.52 (6.25 - 20.1) 80.75 (75.3 - 84.6) 5.25 (2.5 - 10.8) 0.12 (0.02 - 0.17)
Biscuit 13.68 (12.39 - 13.9) 85.8 (83.6 - 87.1) 0.05 (0.01 - 0.59) 0.1 (0.04 - 0.48)
Bread 0.048 (0.009 - 0.91) 42.9 (39.3 - 51.2) 56.9 (47.17 - 59.9) 0 (0 - 0.02)
Values are median (interquartile range), TFA-Trans fatty acid: SFA: Saturated fatty acid, MUFA: Monounsaturated fatty acid: PUFA: polyunsaturated fatty
Table 2. Trans fatty acid levels in food.
Snacks Total fat g/100g food TFA % of fat TFA g/100g food
Laddu 31 (28.85 - 33.4) 22.53 (18.2 - 26.6) 6.75 (6.2 - 7.3)
Balushahi 48.5 (38.75 - 48.75) 10.5 (2.03 - 28.8) 5.72 (2.16 - 8.2)
Mathari 48.8 (41.4 - 51.4) 13.54 (11 - 21.23) 7.33 (4.88 - 13.56)
Bhatura 31 (30 - 36.85) 8 (7.58 - 22.76) 2.5 (2.25 - 9.1)
Bread Pakora 25 (24 - 25) 2.19 (0.7 - 2.55) 1.05 (0.36 - 2.4)
Samosa 19.4 (18.05 - 19.7) 1.23 (1.2 - 18.1) 0.25 (0.21 - 3.65)
Cake 20 (20 - 20) 13.52 (6.25 - 20.1) 2.7 (1.25 - 4.12)
Biscuit 18 (18 - 20.5) 13.68 (12.39 - 13.9) 2.46 (2.23 - 2.85)
Bread 1.8 (1.8 - 2.25) 0.048 (0.009 - 0.91) 0.001 (0.001 - 0.02)
Values are median (interquartile range).
Assessment of Trans Fatty Acid Content in Widely Consumed Snacks by Gas Chromatography in a Developing Country
Table 3. Fatty acid composition of oil used in preparation of foods.
Sample SFA MUFA PUFA TFA g/100gm
Balushahi (oil) 18 (14 - 85) 10.4 (4.47 - 25.2) 59.6 (2.9 - 61.8) 0.34 (0.27 - 6)
Mathari (oil) 60.5 (40.6 - 68.6) 21.7 (9.35 - 38.65) 16.4 (11.53 - 17.24) 6 (3.4 - 7.2)
Bhatura (oil) 52.9 (43.5 - 61.6) 25.9 (13 - 30) 8.44 (1.38 - 14.28) 8.35 (4 - 23.8)
Bread Pakora (oil) 75.9 (74.1 - 77) 5.35 (4.9 - 5.8) 14.85 (1.76 - 18.7) 1.79 (1.07 - 15.3)
Samosa (oil) 47.4 (6.42 - 51.5) 41.6 (27.5 - 46.15) 10.87 (9.9 - 41.7) 1.68 (1.18 - 9.12)
Values are median (interquartile range), SFA-Saturated fatty acid: MUFA-Monounsaturated fatty acid, PUFA-polyunsaturated fatty acid: TFA-Trans fatty acid.
Figure 1. Representative chromatogram of the snack (Balushahi).
Figure 2. Representaive chromatogram of oil (used in frying Balushahi).
shop, local sweet shop and roadside vendors. A reason
for this variability is that products often contain a blend
of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO) of dif-
ferent sources such as soybean, canola, palm oil, corn
and sunflower oil. The proportions of hydrogenated and
non-hydrogenated oils in these foods are varied to obtain
the desired physical properties. In studies done in Aus-
tralia and Canada high level of TFA was found in over
10% of food items analyzed and the authors also found
great variability in TFA content in crackers, doughnuts
and chocolate wafer biscuits. Earlier studies have also
reported varied TFA level within similar food items due
Open Access FNS
Assessment of Trans Fatty Acid Content in Widely Consumed Snacks by Gas Chromatography in a Developing Country 1285
to type of oil used in preparation [9-16]. These variability
reflects the difficulty in assessing TFA intake in a popu-
lation especially by dietary methods which depend on
food composition tables. Developing food composition
tables for every region is time consuming and economi-
cally non viable exercise especially in developing coun-
The TFA values observed in this study was marginally
lower than the earlier reported values. Agrawal et al. [5]
has reported TFA value for Laddu as 10.2 g/100g food,
7.6 g for Balushahi, 16.3 g and 3.3 g for Mathari and
Samosa respectively. This difference may be because the
TFA values were generated as secondary data, which is
calculated based on the amount of PHVO/oil used in
preparation, whereas in our study TFA was estimated by
GC which quantitates actual levels of TFA in the food.
Recently Johnson et al. [17] reported high trans fatty acid
content in Indian junk foods where they have included
packaged snacks in the study. They however did not
analyzed trans fatty acid in street foods and snacks. Fatty
acid composition of food and their oils used for frying
was different in our study. This may be because of dif-
ference in fat and oil used in shortening and frying indi-
vidual food item. The majority of the outlets appeared to
have used non-hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying.
The street food and snacks vendors comprise of an unor-
ganized sector who are mostly unaware of the regulations
to check trans fatty acid content in food. The public at
large do not have an opportunity to make informed
choices which helps in reducing TFA intake as well as
decrease health risk. The range of snacks and savouries
available in the market are wide and analyzing all of
them for trans fatty acid content is beyond the scope of
this study. Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of India,
1955 require that the foods in which hydrogenated vege-
table fats or bakery shortening is used shall declare on
the label that “Hydrogenated vegetable fats or bakery
shortening used-contains trans fats” and a health claim of
“trans fat free” may be made where the trans fat is less
than 0.2 g per serving of food. The oil and fats sub-
committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
(MoHFW) in March 2009, had agreed on a 10 percent
limit on trans fats in vanaspati ghee sold in India. Mem-
bers of this sub-committee also agreed that the trans fat
levels should be brought down to five percent in three
The SFA content found in the food samples and their
oils in this study was high when compared to values re-
ported by Centre for Science and Environment in oils
used in India [17] The CSE has reported fatty acid profile
for fresh oil. Reheating of oils increases SFA and may be
the reason for higher SFA in food samples in the present
study. Alireza et al. [18] has reported that Palmitic (16:0)
acid content increase with the prolonged frying where as
linoleic acid (18:2) and linolenic acid (18:3) fatty acid
content was decreased. Similarly Soliman et al. [19]
found the increase in the content of palmitic, stearic and
total saturated fatty acid with increased frying time. Re-
peated reuse of oil for frying introduces components in
food increasing health risk.
5. Conclusion
Unlike the previously reported studies where the level of
trans fatty acids content of foods was derived as secon-
dary data from the oil used, we have analyzed and docu-
mented the actual total TFA levels in some snacks widely
consumed by the population. Since the adverse affects of
trans fatty acids have been conclusively shown in many
studies, calculating and analyzing the actual amount of
trans fat in foods in every region are essential to assess
the actual risk that consumption of these foods carries
rather than relying on the food composition tables. Such
studies can help to analyse the quality of oil being used
in public eateries and open up the possibility of discus-
sion on how to reduce TFA intake.
6. Acknowledgements
This research was funded by the senior research fellow
grant of Indian Council of Medical Research. The author
declares that the work described has not been published
previously. The authors’ contributions to the study were
as follows: SK carried out the work and wrote the manu-
script, RA provided intellectual input for carrying out the
experiment and writing the manuscript, LR helped in
study design, gave statistical inputs and edited the manu-
script. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing interest.
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Open Access FNS
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