Animal and Vegetable Ghee
- Both vegetable and animal ghee which are used for cooking in India and other South Asian countries have extremely high trans fatty acid content.1
- Dalda, which is a type of vegetable ghee and major source of edible oil in India, has a trans fat level of about 50%. Trans fat intake is associated with adverse cardiometabolic profile, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (CVD).2-4
- Dairy products are important sources of dietary fat in India. Ghee or clarified butter is one of the common sources of dietary fat and cooking medium among south Asians.5 It is also a staple dietary fat in some regions in Indians with 40% consuming 1 kg or more ghee per month. Use of ghee for deep-frying is considered gourmet among Asian Indians.6 Increased consumption of animal and vegetable ghee had occurred in India over the past few decades.2
- Ghee contains high levels of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, which are considered risk factors for CVD. High consumption of ghee has been shown to increase cholesterol levels in both experimental animals and humans in a dose dependent way.7
- Ghee is anhydrous milk fat and is rich in saturated fat (62%), most of which are cholesterol-raising (myristic acid 17%, palmitic acid 26%). It is perhaps more harmful than butter due to the added presence of cholesterol oxides, which are generated during its preparation by prolonged heating of butter.5
- Liberal dietary exposure to cholesterol oxides from ghee is a likely contributor to the high frequency of coronary artery disease (CAD) among Asian Indians.8
- Although some have claimed beneficial effects of ghee on CAD, we are unaware of any biological explanation as to why Asian Indians can be immune from the unfavorable effects of butter and/or ghee.
- In addition to animal ghee, vegetable ghee (vanaspathi) is also immensely popular in Indian cooking, which exerts similar adverse effects thorough its high content of trans fat which may be as high as 50%.
- Harmful effects of both animal and vegetable ghee are often vehemently denied by many Indians and in fact are promoted as a healthful dietary ingredient.9, 10
1. Hu FB. Globalization of Diabetes: The role of diet, lifestyle, and genes. Diabetes Care. Jun 2011;34(6):1249-1257.
2. Popkin BM. The nutrition transition and obesity in the developing world. J Nutr. Mar 2001;131(3):871S-873S.
3. Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Meigs JB, et al. Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. J Nutr. Mar 2005;135(3):562-566.
4. Mozaffarian D, Pischon T, Hankinson SE, et al. Dietary intake of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women. Am J Clin Nutr. Apr 2004;79(4):606-612.
5. Enas EA, Senthilkumar A, Chennikkara H, Bjurlin MA. Prudent diet and preventive nutrition from pediatrics to geriatrics: current knowledge and practical recommendations. Indian heart journal. Jul-Aug 2003;55(4):310-338.
6. Enas EA. Indian diet and cardiovascular disease: An update. In: Chatterjee SS, ed. Update in Cardiology Hyderabad: Cardiology Society of India.; 2007.
7. Kumar MV, Sambaiah K, Lokesh BR. Effect of dietary ghee–the anhydrous milk fat, on blood and liver lipids in rats. J Nutr Biochem. Feb 1999;10(2):96-104.
8. Jacobson M S. Cholesterol oxides in Indian ghee: possible cause of unexplained high risk of atherosclerosis in Indian immigrant populations. Lancet. 1987;2(8560):656-658.
9. Shankar SR, Bijlani RL, Baveja T, et al. Effect of partial replacement of visible fat by ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid profile. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. Jul 2002;46(3):355-360.
10. Kumar MV, Sambaiah K, Lokesh BR. Hypocholesterolemic effect of anhydrous milk fat ghee is mediated by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids. J Nutr Biochem. Feb 2000;11(2):69-75.