It is truly fantastic how easy it is to access information. Information is literally at our fingertips. The information on hydrogenation of oils is abundant and its serious debilitating effects on the human body are undeniable. Numerous studies have been done on the hydrogenation of oils. All of these studies produce the same results yet still many people are either unaware of the dangers of hydrogenation, or are aware and stupidly choose to ignore the warnings. This is unfathomable because the information is clear – studies prove that partially hydrogenated oils are UNHEALTHY.
Facts on Hydrogenation You Should Know:
- There is a difference between full hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation.
- Partially hydrogenated oils are very common.
- Fully hydrogenated oils are okay but are hard to find.
- Partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats.
- Fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans fats.
- Partially hydrogenated oils are unhealthy and pose serious health risks.
- Partially hydrogenated oils are not only used specifically as cooking oils, they are also found in many processed foods, e.g. non-dairy coffee creamer.
What is Hydrogenation?
Hydrogenation involves adding hydrogen gas to oils at high temperatures in the presence of a metal catalyst, usually nickel. Some of the metals may remain in products that contain fully hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
Fats in their simplest form are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. In the structural formula of a saturated fat like animal fat or butter the fat molecule is held together by single bonds making it solid at room temperature; this structure is said to have a cis formation. In an unsaturated fat like vegetable oil or margarine the fat molecule is held together by double bonds making it liquid at room temperature. When this structure is subjected to partial hydrogenation the structure changes from a cis formation to a trans formation. It is this trans formation that produces trans fats.
All oils that are partially hydrogenated contain trans fats and this holds true even when the nutritional content listed on food products state “zero trans fats”.
Why Partially Hydrogenated Oils?
Because it provides a longer shelf-life to oils and keeps flavours stable.
Why is Partially Hydrogenated Oil Unhealthy?
Numerous studies show that partial hydrogenation and trans fats pose serious health risks to humans, here are some of those risks:
- Raises LDL (bad cholesterol); leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increases inflammation
- Increases insulin resistance
- May be carcinogenic and therefore increases risk for cancer
I have included links below to just a few articles on studies conducted on partially hydrogenated oils/trans fats.
- Dietary intake of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women
- Consumption of trans fatty acids is related to plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction –
- Trans Fatty Acids Induce Vascular Inflammation and Reduce Vascular Nitric Oxide Production in Endothelial Cells
- Trans fatty acids, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes
- Do Saturated Fats and Trans Fats Cause Type-2 Diabetes?
- Study reveals broad dangers of trans fats
- Trans-fatty acids and colon cancer
Where Are Trans Fats?
Most vegetable cooking oils are partially hydrogenated, therefore most vegetable oils contain trans fats. Nutritional information on cooking oils often have zero trans fats listed, but does it really have “zero” trans fats? Food labeling industry rules say it’s okay to state that your product has zero trans fats if the amount of trans fats per serving is .5 grams or less. Sneaky, yes. Surprising, no.
How many servings of trans fats do you have each day? How much trans fats in cooking oils produced by partial hydrogenation in those servings accumulate in your body? At what point do you make the decision to limit your intake of trans fats? Is it before or after it causes a debilitating disease that affects your life….for the rest of your life? It won’t happen to you, right? I wish I had your crystal ball.
Many packaged foods contain partially hydrogenated oils. It may say “trans fat free” but if partially hydrogenated oil or a vegetable oil is listed as an ingredient it more than likely contains trans fats.
Margarine contain trans fats – This toxic substance deserves an entire post on it’s own!
Most vegetable oils used for cooking including canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, cotton seed oil, etc. contain trans fats. These oils are also processed using full hydrogenation, but good luck finding them.
Safe oils – cold pressed oils including extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado oil, organic butter, fully hydrogenated oils
How Much Trans Fats Are You Consuming?
So far I’ve written about what partially hydrogenated oils are, how unhealthy they are and where you can find them. How about looking at a person’s possible consumption of trans fats in one day based on food labeling that states “0 Trans Fats”? Remember the Food and Drug Administration regulates food labeling and the rule says that food manufacturers can state that their products have 0 trans fat per serving if the product contains up to .5 grams or less of trans fats per serving. Let us also bare in mind that the world health organization recommends consuming no more than 1% of your daily calorie intake from trans fats. So if you eat about 2,000 calories per day you should consume no more than 2 grams of trans fat per day. I will even be conservative and estimate that each serving of food contains a mere .25 grams of trans fat.
- Coffee with 2 tsps. off non-dairy coffee creamer = .5 g
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread with margarine = .5 g
- 1 tbsp. peanut butter – .25 g
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread with 2 tsps. margarine = 1 g (Margarine actually has about .7 g trans fat per 3 g serving).
- ½ can of tuna = .25 g
- Green salad with 2 tbsps. vinaigrette dressing = .5 g
- 1 Apple = 0 g or 1 protein bar = .25 g
- Chicken with broccoli sautéed in 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil = .25 g
- Green salad with 2 tbsp. salad dressing = .5 g
- 1 Baked potato or 1 cup of rice = 0 g
Handful of almonds = 0 g or 1 serving of Lays Potato Chips = .25 g
Total trans fats for one day = 3.5 g – 4 g. Can you imagine what’s in a day filled with processed foods and restaurant meals!
What To Do With This Information?
You say to yourself “3.5 – 4 grams might be a lot, but it is just for one day”. Well consider bioaccumulation. Healthy doesn’t happen overnight and neither does unhealthy. Toxins from unhealthy ingredients in your food can accumulate in your body. Sooner or later your body will not be able to handle all those toxins. They will manifest somewhere. Maybe your arteries, maybe in cancer growing cells, maybe in type 2 diabetes.
- What you should not do – Wait to find out what partial hydrogenation and trans fats does to your body.
- What you should do – Avoid the accumulation as much as possible in the first place.
Avoid…smart. Wait to see what happens….not so smart.
Finally, if you think I’m trying to scare into staying away from partially hydrogenated oils you’re right. If you think I am exaggerating the harmful effects of consuming partially hydrogenated oils, you’re wrong. The evidence is there…at your fingertips.
Live Healthy…Be Happy,
Have questions about partial hydrogenation? Comment below and I’ll answer them!
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