Is all hydrogyenated oils bad for you?

Human beings have used oil for thousands of years as a cooking medium. Our ancestors relied solely upon natural sources of oil, including vegetable oils (such as coconut and olive) and animal fat (lard). However, as populations rose, it became difficult to transport and store natural oils since they had a limited ‘shelf life’ and would soon turn rancid. In the 1930s, scientists came up with a solution that promised to solve the problem, which was hydrogenation of oils. The process itself is simple. Oils are heated and then hydrogen bubbles are forced in, under pressure. The hydrogen atoms bond with the carbon in the oil, changing the chemical structure of the natural fatty acids. The benefits were that the oil became thicker (making it easier to transport), the shelf life increased, and the melting point became higher. Over the last century, hydrogenated oils were embraced by consumers, especially processed food companies who found them to be more economical.

However, medical studies over the last two decades have exposed serious health risks associated with the process of hydrogenation. The key factor to consider is that the process of hydrogenation converts natural unstable fatty acids (unsaturated fats) into trans fatty acids (saturated fats). Studies have shown that unsaturated fats are actually healthier and can even reduce cholesterol levels. The reason is that they have a higher percentage of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the so-called ‘good cholesterol’. On the other hand, trans fats have more low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the ‘bad cholesterol’. The effects of a diet high in LDL are now well-known: increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to clogged arteries. In addition, ongoing studies and research suggests that trans fats in hydrogenated oils can also increase the risk of several other serious medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

In 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine scientific review stated that trans fats have potential for harm, but no nutritional benefits. Current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines recommend that an individual should consume no more than 2 grams of trans fats in the daily diet. If you consider that a single donut can have 2 times this amount, you will understand the dangers of consuming processed foods containing hydrogenated oils. However, you can control the level of trans fat in your diet by paying careful attention to the nutritional data printed on packaged foods, especially the levels of ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. You should also aim at a more active lifestyle to reduce the risk factors associated with hydrogenated oils.

answered by G M

Liquid oils when converted to solid fats, named hydrogenated fats, produces trans fats. Inclusion of hydrogen atoms into vegetable oil, in the presence of a nickel catalyst is the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation raises the shelf life of foods. The flavour remains stable for quiet some time. Trans fats are inherently seen in foods, such as lamb, butter, pork, milk and beef. Trans fats are found in almost all foods consumed, such as margarine, crackers, cereals, chips, salad dressings, fried foods, baked foods and chips. The foods stay without going rancid in the presence of trans fats. These trans fats in hydrogenated fats result in clogged arteries, thereby contributing to atherosclerotic plaques. The risk of diabetes is increased in individuals with high trans fat in their diet. Research reveals the tendency of trans fats to raise the levels of LDL (low density lipoproteins) cholesterol, also termed 'bad' cholesterol. They are worse than saturated fats and suppress the 'good' or HDL cholesterol. Triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, in turn increases. Individuals with increased consumption of hydrogenated fats are at more risk of cancer.

answered by Dr C

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