Posted: 07 March 2012 at 11:28pm
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Hydrogenated oil is often known by its common name Trans fats. Hydrogenation is a process of heating oil and then passing hydrogen bubbles through it, in this process hydrogen atoms are added which makes the oil denser or solidifies. But when the process is stopped half way through, a semisolid oil is formed, a partially hydrogenated oil with a consistency that of butter which is a lot cheaper. Thus it is a desirable substitute for expensive things like butter, giving a rich flavor and texture to the food as from butter.
The hydrogenated oils smells worse than the rancid butter, in the last stages of oil processing it is steam distilled to remove the odor. So next time you read partially hydrogenated oil on a label, think of "rancid butter".
Trans fat also occurs naturally in milk and body fat of cattle and sheep. It is present in very small quantity, at a level of 2-5% of total fat. These animal based fats were the only trans fats consumed, but today the largest amount of trans fats is consumed from the processed foods. These partially hydrogenated fats have displaced the natural solid fats and liquid oils in various processed foods especially in the fast foods. These naturally occurring trans fats are not known to cause same risk as partially hydrogenated oil. So it is the hydrogenated process that is harmful.
During the process of hydrogenation trans fats have been "transmogrified" or its shape and form is changed. So the problem with trans fat is that the chemically active end is completely messed up where as the part that is attached to the cell wall is unchanged. So during the metabolic process when they take their position in the cell wall as the guard, they act like a bad guard and don't do their job. They let foreign particles enter the cell unchallenged and stop the supplies to the cell. In short trans fats are slow poisons, they interfere with the metabolic process and mess up the critical functions. Our body has no defense against them as they never existed.
Partially hydrogenated oils will kill you in long run by developing various diseases like Diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis etc., but in the mean while it will also make you fat. Our body needs essential fatty acids for every metabolic function in our body and these essential fatty acids are now replaced by trans fats in our diet. And our body will not rest till it gets the required amount of essential fatty acids, thus you will not stop feeling hungry until you meet the demand. Thus the key to be thin is to consume foods that are high in poly unsaturated fats that contain the essential fatty acids. Trans fats not only make you fat but they also interferes with the body's ability to utilize the good fats.
Studies have shown that consuming partially hydrogenated oils of any kind increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and not only that it also lowers the good cholesterol (HDL). This will further lead to atherosclerosis thus increasing the risk of stroke. Studies have also linked trans fat to increase the risk of type 2 Diabetes.
Mostly partially hydrogenated oils are soybean oils, which depresses the thyroid and thus lowers the energy levels. So you feel more tired and lethargic to exercise and over a period of time it slows down the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Soy bean has been used for centuries but not in the concentrated form of soy bean oil, neither it was hydrogenated nor was used in every food product.
The deep fried food served in major fast food joints are fried in hydrogenated oils. We know deep frying in itself is bad, but if done in saturated oil it will do less harm than fried in hydrogenated oils can do. Saturated fats are inert and do not take part in any metabolic activity in our body, it is stored and can be burned as fuel by our body.
In the supermarket most food products available contain partially hydrogenated oils, as it is cheaper than butter, even the restaurants and bakeries are using partially hydrogenated oils so as to maintain the rich flavor and texture of food at a cheaper rate.
The manufacturers know the ill effects of partially hydrogenated oils but the industry has flourished and the manufacturers are not willing to take the loss. Partially hydrogenated oil is cheap and it gives the same rich flavor and texture to the food as the expensive oils and butter, it also increases shelf life of the food products, it also decreases refrigeration requirements. Partially hydrogenated oils have the right consistency to be solid at the room temperature especially in baked food products, thus replaces fats like butter and lard. And it is also cheap so reduces the production cost. In deep frying the partially hydrogenated oil can be reused for longer than the saturated oils before it gets rancid. So they are putting a blind eye to the risks that it poses to the consumer.
How to avoid Trans fats?
Start reading the labels before you buy any product. You would not be surprised to see that majority of processed foods contain trans fats. Worst is the items on healthy food section also contain partially hydrogenated oils and still they are labeled as healthy. Today as the consumers are becoming aware of the dangers of partially hydrogenated oils, the manufacturers have not stopped using the trans fats instead they just gave new names to it.
Read the food labels and avoid any thing that contains the word hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, trans fats, di-glycerides, mono-glycerides. Avoid eating out and especially deep fried foods.
There is a huge distinction between good and bad fats. As we have learnt that hydrogenated fats are most dangerous product to consume does not mean that all fats are bad. Good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are healthy in moderate amounts. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids provide the essential fats which are essential for many important processes in our body:
As a guard to the cell – like passing oxygen, nutrients into the cell, guarding the cell from foreign bodies.
Brain cell functions and nervous activity.
As a messenger - Hormones and intracellular messenger
Oxygen transport system
In digestive tract – helps assimilating nutrients and block the allergens.Etc.
Thus essential fatty acids are most important nutrient to sustain life. It is wise to replace bad fats with these good fats. Good fats will keep you healthy and reduce the risk of diseases.
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