Hydrogenated oils offer many benefits to food manufacturers, chief of which are increased shelf life and low cost in comparison to animal fats. However, they are not necessarily a better choice for our health.
- Hydrogenated oils are artificially saturated fats. Recent studies show that naturally saturated fats found in dairy, lard, coconut oil, and meats may not be as detrimental to our health as we once thought. A meta-analysis of 21 studies and 348,000 participants followed for five to twenty-three years showed no increased incidence of coronary heart disease or stroke in those who regularly consumed saturated fats over those who did not. However, chemically altered fats, like hydrogenated oils, have not shown these same benefits, which is thought to be due to their link to trans-fats.
- The process of hydrogenation produces an abundance of trans-fatty acids which research has shown to increase overall cholesterol, increase LDL cholesterol (the “Lousy” cholesterol,) and decrease HDL cholesterol (the “Healthy” cholesterol,) thus increasing the formation of arterial plaques and one”s risk for coronary heart disease.
- Hydrogenated oils and trans-fats also serve to increase general inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to increased risk of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and even clinical depression.
- Soybean oil, corn oil, and canola oil in particular (hydrogenated or not) have a high probability of having originated from genetically modified plants. Over 90% of soy, corn, and canola (rapeseed) grown in the U. S. is grown from genetically modified seeds. If a product containing these oils doesn’t say, “Certified Organic”, on the label, it’s most likely genetically modified.
Hydrogenated oils are not only found in margarine and other obvious fats. They are also prevalent in many snack foods like chips and popcorn, baked goods, low-fat ice cream, candy and candy bars, frozen entrees like TV dinners and pizzas, and deep fried foods. Read the label: if it says, “hydrogenated oil”, or “partially hydrogenated oil” of any kind, it may not be the best choice for your health. Choose products which contain naturally occurring fats and oils like butter, ghee, olive oil, even lard, for more healthful options.
- Patty W Siri-Tarino, et al. (Jan 13, 2010). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.