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Hydrgenated Oils, Trans-Fats And Commercial Oils

Hydrogenated oils and trans-fats are probably the most harmful "foods" available today. Not only are they harmful, but they are widely distributed, found in nearly all processed foods, including commercially produced breads, muffins, cookies, cakes and other baked goods, commercial salad dressings, and vegetable shortening.

If hydrogenated oils are so harmful, you might wonder why they are found in so many food items in the supermarket. Well for the food companies, it's all about shelf-life and viscosity(thickness).

Healthier options such as Polyunsaturated oils like corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil are all liquid at room temperature, making them less suitable for products like margarine and baked goods. Also, polyunsaturated oils are highly reactive and unstable, and become rancid very quickly when exposed to light and air, so they are poor oils for use in processed and refined foods, which are often exposed to light and air over prolonged periods. In order to get around the undesireable properties of polyunsaturated oils, the food industry invented the process of hydrogenation, which changes these unsaturated oils into partially saturated or "hydrogenated" oils. Hydrogenated oils do not smell or become rancid for extremely long periods of time, so they are perfect for mass produced goods that need to have a long shelf life.

Unfortunately, The hydrogenation process involves forcing hydrogen atoms into the empty carbon chains of unsaturated oils using high heat, hydrogen gas, and metals such as nickel, platinum or sometimes copper. Remnants of these metals remain in processed oils and are potentially linked to the development of Alzheimer's and cancer. Hydrogenation also creates trans-fats, which are mono- or polyunsaturated fats with a distorted physical and chemical structure.

Polyunsaturated oils are normally characterized by having carbon "double bonds". These double bonds are found in specific locations along the carbon chains that make up the fat molecule and allow it to bend into a cis formation. The cis formation is critical to how the fatty acid molecule functions in the body. When polyunsaturated oils are partially hydrogenated, their special cis formation distorts and changes into a trans formation, and although the cis and the trans molecules have the same chemical formula, this difference in shape profoundly alters how the molecule functions within the body.

The distortion of their structures means that trans-fats only partially fit into their designated enzyme and membrane structures, and so are not able to be properly metabolized or carry out the same roles as their non-trans counterparts. Not only are trans fats themselves not properly metabolized, but they also block healthy non-trans unsaturated oils from being metabolized.

More specifically, trans fats interfere with the enzyme systems that convert fatty acids into fatty acid derivatives in your brain, sense organs, adrenal glands, ovaries, testes, and the cytochrome P448/450 enzyme system that the liver uses to detoxify and metabolize every chemical substance that enters our body. Trans fats also interfere with the production of prostaglandins, which regulate muscle tone in the walls of the arteries, control blood pressure, regulate platelet stickiness, kidney function, inflammation responses, and the immune system. Fatty acid researchers have found that as a result of their interference with enzymes and cell membranes, trans-fats raise Lp(a), a risk factor for atherosclerosis, as well as lower the efficiency of B cell response while increasing the proliferation of T cells, decreasing testosterone levels, and increasing the formation of abnormal sperm. Trans-fat consumption is correlated with low birth weight, poor breast milk quality, increased insulin response to glucose, and increased insulin resistance.

Suggested Reading

Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus
This book provides an in-depth explanation of why hydrogenated oils are so detrimental to your health and how non-hydrogenated oils can heal and contribute to better overall health. Click the book name to read reviews and more!

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