Hydrogenated Oils: They'll Slowly Kill You!

April 22, 2011

There are some things on this planet you should be seriously scared of. Why? Because they can kill you!
Things such as poisonous mushrooms, salmonella, staph infections and...hydrogenated oils. Yes, these oils that are widely used in the food industry are (or should be) held accountable for many diseases in today’s world.
Many studies and researches in the last decade have proven how damaging hydrogenated oils are for your health. Their negative impact on the human body is so severe that it can, in some cases, actually lead to death.
So let’s found out exactly how these harmful substances are affecting your body.

What are hydrogenated oils

Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen through it. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some of the hydrogen, which makes it more dense. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, the result is a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil.
Because partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are cheaper than animal source fats, they are available in a wide range of consistencies, and have other desirable characteristics (such as longer shelf life), they are the predominant fats used as shortening in most commercial baked goods.
Also, the way they mixes with flour produces a more desirable texture in the baked product, gives the products a richer flavor and texture, but doesn't cost near as much as it would to add regular butter.

What’s wrong with them?

Unlike butter, hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. A trans fat is an otherwise normal fatty acid that has been "transmogrified", by high-heat processing of a free oil. The fatty acids can be double-linked, cross-linked, bond-shifted, twisted, or messed up in a variety of other ways.
The problem with trans fats is that while the "business end" (the chemically active part) is messed up, the "anchor end" (the part that is attached to the cell wall) is unchanged. So they take up their position in the cell wall, like a guard on the fortress wall. But like a bad guard, they don't do their job! They let foreign invaders pass unchallenged, and they stop supplies at the gates instead of letting them in.
In short, trans fats are poisons, just like arsenic or cyanide. They interfere with the metabolic processes of life by taking the place of a natural substance that performs a critical function. 
And that is the definition of a poison. Your body has no defense against them, because they never even existed in our two billion years of evolution: so we've never had the need or the opportunity to evolve a defense against them.
But the worst part is that in the last stages of oil processing (or "refining"), the oil is literally steam distilled to remove its odor. So it doesn't smell. 
But I've been told that an hydrogenated oil is much worse than rancid butter. So if it did smell, it would smell worse than the most rancid butter you've ever seen.

Hydrogenated oils will make you fat

Researches have shown that partially hydrogenated oils may produce diseases like multiple sclerosis and allergies that lead to arthritis but that’s not it, in the meantime they will make you fat! Partially hydrogenated oils make you gain weight the same way that saturated fats do: by making you consume even more fat to get the the essential fatty acids you need. But they are even worse. Not only do they produce disease over the long term, but they interfere with the body's ability to ingest and utilize the good fats!
Picture it like this. The trans fats are now the guards along the watchtower. The essential fatty acids (the support troops) are waiting outside to get into the fort (the cell), so they can be distributed along the watchtower (the cell wall). But the guards won't let them in! So they have to find someplace to stay in town. Over time, more and more troops are finding lodging in town. So new houses (fat cells) have to built to keep them in. The town grows more and more swelled with troops (fat), and it gets bigger and bigger (fatter). 
It's not a pretty picture at all, when you realize that the town is your belly, buns, face, and neck.

Hydrogenated oils will make your metabolism slows

Worse, most partially hydrogenated oil is partially hydrogenated soybean oil and you should really watch out for this dude!
Why? Because soybean oil depresses the thyroid: which lowers your energy levels, makes you feel less like exercising and generally makes you fatter!
Of course, soybeans have been used for centuries in the Orient but mostly as the basis for soy sauce and tofu. But they didn't hydrogenate it and they didn't use it in everything.
Walking down supermarket aisles in the United States, you find product after product with partially hydrogenated oil even in products you would never expect.
As a result, we are consuming hydrogenated oil in virtually everything we eat. It's no wonder we are experiencing epidemic levels of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

How to avoid them?

Since new labeling laws went into effect, many manufacturers have eliminated partially hydrogenated fats from their brands. However, the only way to make sure they are not in the foods you choose is to read the list of ingredients on every processed food you buy.
Scan through the list of ingredients and if it contains the words "partially hydrogenated", put it back on the shelf.
Why? Because the United States Food and Drug Administration definition of "zero grams trans fats per serving" is less than one gram per tablespoon, or up to 7% by weight. This means that even if you just look at the nutrition facts of a certain product it might be listed as containing trans fat 0 gr but it may instead contain 0.9 gram of it...pretty bad right? It's much harder when you eat out, because then you have no way to tell what's going on in the kitchen. Fast food restaurants and chains use a lot of pre-prepared (read "frozen") foods that they re-heat for you. These are often still made with partially hydrogenated fats. You are safer at restaurants that prepare your food from scratch. Asian restaurants are good bets: they may not be low-fat, but they use oils, not margarine or shortening. Most French or continental restaurants (read "expensive") use huge amounts of butter, better than trans fats but not great if you're trying to lose weight or control cholesterol.
Italian, Greek, Spanish and other Mediterranean restaurants instead tend to use olive oil.

The Iron You


  1. This was a very interesting article, well done!