What are Partially Hydrogenated Oils?
Partially hydrogenated oils are man-made oils, which have been chemically altered by adding hydrogen atoms to the existing oil. The process of hydrogenation makes the oil more saturated with hydrogen atoms. During the hydrogenation process, the original structure of the oil is altered. The new shape of the oil is called a “trans” structure, since the shape is now moving across. (Trans means “across” in Latin.) This chemical process creates a longer shelf life as well as better flavor and stability of the product it is in.
Long ago the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noted that trans fats negatively affected the body because of its ability to increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) in the blood. High amounts of LDL cholesterol can clog arteries and contributes to diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD).
Where the Villains Lurk
Trans fat are in all foods containing partially hydrogenated oils: such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods. The FDA now requires that all food labels list the amount of trans fat in a serving size but ONLY if the total amount of trans fat in the food is more than 0.5 grams per serving. So, even though the label might state that it has 0g trans fats, you still have to check. That is why it is vital to read the ingredients list to avoid anything containing partially hydrogenated.
The Other Bad Guy: High Fructose Corn Syrup
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is another ingredient, which has been linked to contributing to America’s health problems such as the obesity epidemic and gastrointestinal problems.
High fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1970’s. It is a sugar derived from corn, which contains about 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Regular white sugar has a fraction of the amount of fructose. The additional fructose makes the corn syrup 1.28 times sweeter than regular sugar. So, less can be used in foods, saving food companies a substantial amount of money, making it very cost effective.
Where it is…
HFCS can be found in almost any type of food or drink, ranging from juice to bread. It is often found in soft drinks, fruit drinks, candied fruits, canned fruits, dairy desserts, flavored yogurts, baked goods, cereals, jellies, sauces, salad dressings, crackers, snack foods, processed meats, and most other processed foods. It is almost everywhere!
Why it’s Bad
The body absorbs and digests fructose differently than glucose. With the excess fructose in the diet, gastrointestinal problems can occur, such as bloating, flatus, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. When large amounts of fructose are introduced to the body at once, the excess fructose is not absorbed right away. This causes excess carbon dioxide and fatty-acid build-up, which can cause these gastrointestinal symptoms.
According to current research, HFCS may contribute to the obesity epidemic. Fructose is metabolized by the body in a non-insulin manner. Insulin helps to tell the body when it is full. This means that when one eats foods containing HFCS, the body will not recognize when it is satiated since the insulin is not activated. This could result in the over-consumption of foods and drinks containing HFCS, which can result in obesity over time.
By reading food labels, one can abstain from eating too many food or drink products containing High Fructose Corn Syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.
Created by: Sarah Koszyk, Dietetic Intern.
1. (Jan 1, 2006) Questions and Answers about Trans Fat nutrition labeling. >From FDA website, retrieved on August 25, 2006, from http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qatrans2.html
2. The Corn Refiners Association. High-fructose corn syrup: the facts about HFCS. Retrieved July 9, 2006, from http://www.hfcsfacts.com/WhatIsHFCS.html