Hydrogenated Oils: The Dangers
In recent years, many consumers have heard negative things about hydrogenated oils. Some people avoid them at all costs, while others have an "everything in moderation" attitude about these fats. What exactly is hydrogenated oil, and why is it so bad for a person's health?
Simply put, hydrogenated oil is a chemically altered fat. An oil such as vegetable oil or soybean oil is heated and hydrogen bubbles are passed through it. This changes the very chemical composition of the oil and turns it into a solid form, much like butter. Food manufacturing companies love hydrogenated oil because it remains in a solid state at room temperature, and it has a long shelf life. It is also much cheaper than butter, so companies can use this ingredient in place of butter in their processed foods to make products that last longer for a fraction of the cost.
Saving money sounds good, right? Not when it wreaks havoc on consumers' health. The human body requires fat for everything from brain function to digestive-tract operation, but chemically altered trans fatty acids do not fit the body's requirement. They not only fail to do the job of natural fatty acids, but they actually prevent any essential fatty acids that are consumed from doing these necessary jobs. Hydrogenated oils have been studied by the Institute of Medicine and the trans fatty acids that they contain have been labeled as unsafe to consume in any amount.
These toxic trans fatty acids are found in all hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils, and most European countries have banned them from their food supplies. A variety of medical studies conducted over the last twenty years have linked hydrogenated oils to a variety of devastating medical conditions including cancer, MS, heart disease, and diabetes. Although they are still legal in the United States, there is growing concern about the safety of hydrogenated oils in the food supply.
Health-conscious consumers who want to protect their families from these dangerous oils may find it hard to escape from these fats. Partially hydrogenated oils are found in virtually every processed food on the market. Products ranging from chips and bread to gravy mix and cookies contain partially hydrogenated oils, and the majority of fast food restaurants use these oils for cooking and frying. However, there are a few all-natural foods on the market that are free from these oils. Consumers should inspect the ingredients labels of all processed foods to look for the presence of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.
At first glance, hydrogenated oils seem to be a great asset to food companies and consumers alike. However, the health effects that are associated with these chemically altered oils are appalling. Medical research has proven that consumers should completely avoid hydrogenated oils, and that the health benefits of buying foods with more natural ingredients are worth the additional monetary cost.
Also see: The Skinny on Fats by Marcia Zimmerman.
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