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Hydrogenated Fats (Partially Hydrogenated Trans Fats)

Trans fats is one food item that every person should avoid. These fats are not beneficial in any form and they are not necessary for any reason biochemically. Avoidance of these fats is the one thing that anybody can do and it has the most widespread benefits.

Hydrogenated fats are, by definition, a poison, as even in a small amount they will induce a chemical reaction that may cause damage to structure or disturbance of function, producing symptomatology, illness, or death. These fats do not exist in nature (with the exception of a very small, irrelevant amount found naturally in cow milk). They are processed from naturally occurring fats and oils by converting the natural “cis” form of the fat into a “trans” form. This is done by bubbling hydrogen gas into the oil at very high temperatures.

Trans fats alter the configuration of cell membranes and they block important enzymes that are necessary for the metabolism of fats. Your body can metabolize half of a “cis” fat in 18 days. Yet it takes your body 51 days to metabolize just half of a hydrogenated fat. Do the math…after 102 days, there is still 25% left for your body to deal with.

Trans fats block the production of Type 1 and 3 prostaglandins (PG), which are derived from the omega 6 and omega 3 fats respectfully. These prostaglandins will help you fight inflammation as well as benefit your hormonal and nervous system. They do not, however, block the Type 2 prostaglandins which are derived from dairy, red meat, and shellfish. These fats increase inflammation. So you can see now how a diet high in saturated (PG2) and hydrogenated fats not only increases inflammation themselves, but they block the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, further promoting inflammation. That’s a lot of inflammation!

Daily, nagging symptoms are many times provoked, if not caused by trans fats. This includes but is definitely not limited to headaches, PMS, hot flashes, skin problems, asthma, arthritis, and joint pain – as well as chronic diseases such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, and strokes.

NSAIDs – the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – work by blocking all PG production. Avoidance of trans fats and consumption of natural omega 3 & 6 fats usually turn around the everyday nagging symptoms in less than a month. If you ever achieve symptom relief from taking any NSAID, whether from an aspirin or ibuprofen, or a big player in today’s market such as the Cox-2 inhibitors Vioxx or Celebrex, it is almost certain that you have a fatty acid imbalance. That is how these drugs work. You don’t have a deficiency of them; I’m sure of that.

Read the ingredients. Since trans fats do not exist in nature you don’t have to worry about getting them in whole foods such as meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. It’s the breads, cookies, pastries, crackers, and packaged foods you’ve got to look out for. You’ll find it even in foods labeled “fat free”. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first ingredient listed or the last and it has no relationship to the grams of fat listed on the box. Always use pure butter, never margarine. That will end the “heart-healthy” cholesterol debate. Trans fats are one of the worst, if not the worst, things for your heart and cholesterol level. You usually won’t find hydrogenated fats in sugary, chocolate things – they’re in the breaded/creamy stuff most often. But that is a generalization, so read all the ingredients. The only place you’ll most likely get hydrogenated fat and it won’t be in the ingredients is when something is deep-fried. Deep-frying almost always contains partially hydrogenated fats. However, [non-hydrogenated] vegetable oils that are heated to such high temperatures are extremely unhealthy regardless of whether they are trans fat free. The chemical acrylamide is produced during the frying process (as well as by other means). This chemical has been identified as a neurotoxin and has been linked with certain cancers.

Enjoy cleaning out your kitchen. Remember, you’ll say, “This stuff is in everything.” That is what everybody initially says. But it’s just that it’s in everything you eat. There are many alternatives today. For the occasional junk food – go to a health food store. Once you change your diet, it won’t be in anything.

So how do you know if your product contains trans (hydrogenated) fats? Simple: Search the ingredients list for the words:

  • hydrogenated
  • partially hydrogenated (such as “partially hydrogenated soybean oil”)
  • shortening
  • margarine
  • mono or diglycerides

Oils To Use:

  • Coconut oil, real butter, and even organic lard for cooking
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil either added to food after it is prepared or for cooking at <325 F – at least 1 TB per day
  • Unrefined Sesame Seed Oil also added to food after it is prepared – a few TBs per week (Never heat it!)

17 Comments

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  1. denise permalink

    love this website!! i am constantly harrassed about my healthy eating at work, they are told by the “nutritionist/dietician” that coconut oil is a saturated fat and not to eat it, and margarine…non hydrogenated, is much healthier than butter. i will have you as my backup argument!!

    • Great to hear Denise. Coconut oil is should be a staple in any healthy person’s diet.

  2. Rachel permalink

    Thanks so much for the info. So glad I found this site. Extremely helpful. I noticed, after looking into your suggestions of the different terms used, for the fats to cut out that, that E471 is another way of saying mono -and diglycerides of fatty acids, and I cannot believe how many foods include this, i.e. a shop bought sandwich, that I might have eaten on any travels ( before I started to avoid wheat anyway). Also, I think I am right in saying that, anything which says it includes vegetable oil would be good to stop having ? Or is this okay in small doses(once in a blue moon).

    Sorry forgot to add, also emulsifier. I find it amazing that two food products made, can be similar to look at, one being relatively healthy and the other including surreptitious little ingredients which are ‘hidden’ in there but render the product totally unhealthy.

    • Ideally limit the vege oils as much as you can. Zero trans fats such as E471 though.
      Thanks!

  3. Diane Groves permalink

    I am on low-cholesterol diet. Am told to avoid coconut oil. I have another question. My Crisco all-vegetable shortening has partially hydrogenated palm and soybean oil and also mono & diglycerides. But under transfat category, it says 0. How can this be?

  4. Kevin permalink

    If saturated fat is prostaglandin2 and it is inflammatory, then coconut oil is almost entirely saturated fat. Am I missing something with association of it being a healthy oil. Your chart on another page shows it having more saturated fat than any other oil. I found a study on another website showing prostaglandin2 on scalps of balding men. That suggests a link between inflammation and balding.

    • These fats are almost never a problem, could actually say never. Prostaglandin 2 inflammatory problems are from too many Omega 6 fats being shunted to PG2 when those vegetable oil fats are in combination with insulin, cortisol, and other stressors. Plus, coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, Lauric Acid (C12), which the body uses readily as fuel.

  5. Jason Block permalink

    “They are processed from naturally occurring fats and oils by converting the natural “cis” form of the fat into a “trans” form.”

    By saturating the double bond with hydrogen, there is no longer any cis or trans relationship between the neighboring hydrogens anymore.

    That is to say, you are not converting the “cis” form to the “trans” form, you are simply reducing a double bond.

    H H H H H
    \ \ / | |
    R-C=C-R R-C=C-R R-C-C-R
    \ | |
    H H H

    trans cis saturated
    (max # H)
    R=alkyl, hydrogen, whatever, etc.

    • Jason Block permalink

      well apparently the comment destroyed my formatting so the illustration is no longer apparent

  6. Judith Schweer permalink

    I am a 60-yr. old woman. I went through menopause about 10 or 11 yrs. ago. I had horrible hot flashes during that period. They eased up by 2005, and I only had them infrequently. Lately, I have had bad hot flashes throughout the day, everyday. I sweat quite a bit and, of course, they’re uncomfortable. I get them primarily in the afternoon-evening, but also upon wakening most days. My Internal Medicine (primary) doctor has told me that they are still caused by menopause. (12 yrs later??) I also get a headache almost every evening. I’m wondering if these symptoms could be caused by my diet, or possibly by an ill-functioning organ. I have Hepatitis C, and gall stones. I don’t consume any alcohol at all. I take Ibuprofen often for the headaches. I am a sugar junkie—I eat non-chocolate candy, and lots of home-baked desserts (from mixes). and lots of carbs from sweetened crackers like grahams). Most of the food I eat is eaten after 4pm—I rarely eat anything before then, except candy or cookie-crackers. Could any of these things be my problem, or do you have any input for me regarding these hot flashes? Thanks!

    • That’s a lot of symptoms and although they’re probably related in many ways, I can’t comment on something like that on-line. You should look for a holistic doctor to help you sort some of these issues out.

  7. Sreedevi permalink

    I have a question about using coconut oil for cooking. I recently changed my cooking oil from olive oil to coconut 4 months ago and I noticed my total cholestrol went up from 170 to 238. I can’t think of any other cha ge since I was eating healthy and walking for an hour every day. It freaked me out so much that I shifted back to olive oil again. Any suggestions as to which oil to use?

    • I’d be very surprised if you raised your good (HDL) cholesterol from coconut oil. I’ve never seen it happen. Check out the cholesterol article I have on this site.

  8. Sreedevi permalink

    Thank you for your reply. My HDL levels did not raise after using coconut oil. They stayed pretty much the same as before (49). It is the total cholesterol and LDL which spiked up a lot. TC-233 & LDL-168 & Triglycerides -79. I read your article about coconut oil just yesterday and I read about the benefits of using coconut oil for cooking, especially if your cooking involves lot of heating up which it does for me, so I made the switch. But it is very confusing now that I see the numbers go up so soon. I am not really comfortable with using olive oil ( not extra virgin, just regular one from Costco) for cooking but the other choice backfired. I would very much appreciate if you could provide your insight in this issue. Thank you.

    • I have no idea why coconut oil would raise your LDL unless you have a fat metabolism problem (niacinamide and L-Carnitine) are needed there, or perhaps a gallbladder issue. I, my family, and patients who eat a good amount of coconut milk and oil, have not seen an increase in LDL – only HDL.

  9. Sophie permalink

    Could you send me the details of the references you used for this article? I am a nutrition scientist and wish to understand this better. Many thanks.

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