With the ever-emergent, transient, and often contradictory nature of health trends, it is difficult to determine which food products are actually detrimental to one’s health.
However, in the arena of fleeting nutritional crazes, there is at least one constant: partially hydrogenated oils are bad for you.
In fact, partially hydrogenated oils have been compared to cigarettes concerning the health risk involved.
While most consumers have heard of the label “partially hydrogenated” to describe the vegetable and animal oils that are used for food preparation and preservation, the majority of these consumers lack proper knowledge of the formation of partially hydrogenated oils and their detrimental effects on cardiovascular health.
What are Partially Hydrogenated Oils?
Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction where hydrogen is added to liquid oils, resulting in a solid shortening.
During this process, hydrogenation transforms unsaturated fatty acids into saturated fatty acids.
While there have been differing reports on the health impacts of fully hydrogenated oils, the consensus is that these oils are rather harmless, especially when compared to the oils produced by partial hydrogenation.
The partial hydrogenation of oils commonly results in trans fats, artificially created unsaturated fats that are detrimental to one’s coronary health and considered by doctors to be the worst type of fat.
Whereas the process of full hydrogenation converts all of the oil’s fatty acids from trans fat into saturated fatty acids, food processors commonly use partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats in their products.
The partial hydrogenation of oils prolongs the shelf life of processed food while also making the oils more stable and raising their melting points, allowing for efficient methods of food processing that use high temperatures.
Accordingly, companies often use partially hydrogenated oils as opposed to fully hydrogenated oils because trans fats are easy to use, inexpensive to produce, and they last a long time, resulting in greater economic benefit.
However, as these companies seek larger profits, the health of the American public declines.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils Health Risks
The consumption of these trans fats from partial hydrogenation causes severe cardiovascular and coronary trauma. Particularly, trans fats raise one’s “bad” cholesterol (LDL) while lowering their “good” cholesterol (HDL).
Trans fats also increase triglycerides in the bloodstream and promote systemic inflammation.
As a result, the consumption of trans fats directly correlates with an increase in coronary heart disease.
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that the consumption of trans fats results in 228,000 heart attacks annually.
Additionally, these researchers claim that nearly 50,000 Americans die each year from excessive trans fat consumption.
Although their use has declined in recent years, partially hydrogenated oils still commonly replace butter, lard, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and other fats by food processors.
As a result, the average American eats 5.6 grams of trans fat per day, according to the American Heart Association, which holds that the healthy daily level, based on a 2,000 calorie diet, is less than two grams.
Based on the above, Americans are still consuming excess amounts of trans fat from their intake of partially hydrogenated oils.
Given the disheartening statistics above, one might wonder why companies still use partially hydrogenated oils and why people continue to consume them.
Up until 20 years ago, there was very little research concerning the harmful health effects of trans fats.
As a result, Americans in the present are not aware of the dangers that trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils pose.
The American public needs to be informed of the negative health implications of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats. This way, the nation can fight the coronary disease with a decrease in the consumption of these bad fats.
Even though knowledge of trans fats has increased in recent years, most people are still clueless as to the degree of harm caused by the artificial product.
Even further, those who are actually knowledgeable of trans fats believe that, since large food processors have begun to switch to healthier oils, partially hydrogenated oils no longer pose a serious threat.
On the contrary, the consumption of these unhealthy oils is still very common in restaurants throughout the United States.
While some of the largest corporations (Wendy’s, McDonald’s, etc.) have reduced their use of partially hydrogenated oils, the majority of restaurants have not made the move to healthier oils, resulting in the excess consumption of trans fats stated above.
In order to create a healthier America, the public must be educated about the danger of partially hydrogenated oil and trans fats and the necessity of their avoidance.
Additionally, state and local governments need to instate laws that prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils in restaurants across the country.
The latest Update On PHOs(Partially Hydrogenated Oils)
The FDA finally determined in 2015 that partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
However, according to FDA, it should be noted that trans fats in foods will not be completely eliminated as they may be found naturally in reduced amounts in meat and dairy products, as well as in lower levels in other edible oils.
The beauty of the partially hydrogenated oil ban, naturally, stems from the fact that the average American will no longer get an ingredient demonstrably harmful to their health.