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The Dangers of Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Oil

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Trans fats, hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, these have become the "buzz words" in today's health concious world.

Trans-fatty acids (TFA) are found in margarine (not butter) and are toxic to your body.

For some of us, those words may still be a bit confusing.  Hopefully this information will help you understand the dangers of TFA's.  

What Is Hydrogenated Oil?

I think the best explanation on hydrogenated oil is found in Sally Fallon's book called Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

It's full of information as well as delicious and healthy recipes for the family.

But, since you don't have the book, here's my take on the subject.

It starts out as a natural oil, typically vegetable, canola,  corn or soybean, that is heated and injected with hydrogen gas bubbles to create a solid fat from the oil.

Unfortunately, this process strips the oil of it's original molecular structure making it harmful to the body.

However, the food manufacturers like using it because it extends the shelf life of packaged foods and it adds flavor and texture at a much lesser cost than using butter.

The most common recognizable hydrogenated oils are shortening and margarines.

What Is Partially Hydrogenated Oil?

It's exactly what the name implies, but the hydrogenation process was shortened thereby rendering a semi-solid oil similar to butter.

Despite the complicated highly refined process, it's still cheaper than butter, once again making it a favorable way for food manufacturers to increase profits.

What Are Trans Fats?

Short for trans fatty acids (TFA), it's basically another name for partially hydrogenated oils. TFA are created in the hydrogenation process.

It is the basic breakdown of a healthy molecular structure and once completed, the fats solidify creating trans fats.

Interesting History

The first hydrogenation process was performed in 1903 by a man named William Norman. By 1914 Procter & Gamble came out with Crisco and the popularity of hydrogenation started to grow.

The transformation of fats (trans-fatty acids) was discovered to increase the shelf life of certain foods which meant more production and increased sales.

Just years after the introduction of the hydrogenation process, doctors began noticing a myriad of increased health problems without cause.  They later discovered that there was an undeniable connection between the illnesses and the consumption of these refined oils containing TFA.

Why Are Refined Oils and Trans Fats Bad?

Fats are important to every vital function in the body.

However, the body can only utilize and process certain oils in their virgin form, i.e. butter, olive oil, coconut oil etc.

The hydrogenation process changes the molecular structure which interferes with the metabolic processes of the body and the body has no defenses against them.

TFA's are thought to be a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. Refined oils not only contain TFA's, but the vitamins, minerals and nutrients have been "refined" out (with dangerous chemicals) to increase the shelf life. The same has been done in the refining of sugar and white flour.

The dangers of TFA are many including the the inability of the body to utilize the good fats that are necessary for vital organ functions.

They break down your cells and strip them of their protective properties, allowing allergens, carcinogens, and other harmful substances to pass through.

Dangers Of Trans Fats and Partially Hydrogenated Oil

  • weight gain & obesity
  • slower metabolism
  • diabetes
  • depressed thyroid
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • raises bad cholesterol
  • lowers good cholesterol
  • arthritis
  • autoimmune diseases

Foods High In Trans Fats

Start reading labels, you will be amazed to find that they are found in most manufactured foods. Some examples are:

  • baked goods
  • frozen goods
  • margarine
  • fast food
  • chips
  • crackers
  • snacks

Some manufacturers are being responsible and are using other fat sources. I like Lays potato chips (in limited quantity) for that occasion when I just want to have a salty crunchy snack.

partially hydrogenated oil

In 2006, the FDA finalized requirements requiring that all food labels list the amount of trans fats in the product.

However if the label says it has zero TFA, don't necessarily believe it.

A product can have up to one half of a gram of hydrogenated fat and still label itself with a zero. So read your labels as there is no safe level for TFA.

Making Healthy Choices When Using Oils

While reading labels and avoiding processed, packaged and fast food is a healthy choice, let me offer you a word of caution.

Beware of alternate names used in the ingredients. Food manufacturers will often disguise TFA using alternate names like mono-diglycerides and intesterified oils.

When choosing a healthy oil, try to use olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, grape seed oil, instead of corn, vegetable and canola oil.

Always use the purest and least refined like virgin and cold pressed oils whenever possible. If you plan to fry with the oil make sure the oil is suitable for higher temperatures.

Coconut oil has a high smoke point making it suitable for higher temperature cooking.  Save your virgin oils for non cooking uses.

TFA, hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils are nothing more than toxic poisons to your body.

You can't always avoid these when you eat out, so strive to avoid using these oils at home. Fortunately, there are many other healthy choices in oils that will help nourish your body and your brain.

Additional Resources

Return To Nutrition Page.

Go To Healthy Choices 4 Life Home Page.

Go To Fats and Oils

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