Salt and trans-fats assessed in Kyrgyz Republic with WHO support


Dietary behaviors play an important role for the development of major NCDs. Better knowing the nutritional composition of what we eat is crucial in order to improve food and nutrition landscape and the food behavior in countries of the WHO European Region. The harmful effects of too much salt and trans fatty acids (TFA) are well known by the health community therefore it is essential to reduce their presence in the diet.

Characterizing the street food environment including key industrially produced food products is crucial to better understand and monitor the  burden of dietary risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The WHO Regional Office for Europe with support of the Russian Federation in the context of the Project on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases supported national authorities in the implementation of a study on street food environment conducted in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic that lasted for several months.

The study aimed at describing the content of trans-fatty acids and salt of the foods sold in marketplaces, based on bromatological analyses of locally-obtained food samples, and to describe the patterns of street food purchasing, as well as food marketing practices.

On 19 October 2016 WHO together with Kyrgyzstan health authorities organized a policy event to launch the results of the Food Environment Survey. The event was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health Dr Oleg Gorin and co-chaired by the WHO Representative Dr Jarno Habicht. Around 30 representatives from National, International Organizations and Civil Society Organizations participated in the round table.

Trans fats in Kyrgyzstan

Dr Joao Breda, Programme Manager Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the WHO Regional Office for Europe presented the main finding of the study that analyzed salt and TFA content observed in commonly available products in Kyrgyzstan. The initiative provides evidence for the first time that the amounts of TFA and salt in common foods sold in Bishkek are extremely elevated. It was found that:

  • 54% of foods showed a content of trans fat ≥1%, reaching a maximum level of 14%. Home-made products that showed a higher content of trans fats are cakes and pastries.
  • The high content of trans fat in home-made cakes and pastries are linked to the composition of the fat used in baking.
  • From the entire food categories analyzed only one complied with recommendations on TFA.
  • It was found that some portions of common foods would provide the maximum daily amount of salt recommended by WHO namely the amount of salt found in a 300 g bread portion was 4.7 g. Other foods also provide significant amounts of salt: Kurut – 1.3 g; dry bread crumbs – 1.1 g; carrot salad – 4 g; and belyashi – 2.4 g.

This study was conducted by WHO/Europe with support of WHO research center in the University of Porto, Portugal, Ministry of Health and Bishkek PH department under a biennial collaborative agreement for 2016–2017 between the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan and WHO. The study benefited from financial assistance from the Russian Federation to WHO to address the non-communicable diseases.

Dr Jarno Habicht and Dr Joao Breda gave a joint interview to the National “Azzatyk” TV Channel focusing on the main challenges around diet and physical activity related NCDs in the country as well as an overview of WHO priorities and work in Kyrgyzstan.