If you want to take care of your body and keep yourself healthy, you have to be really careful with what you consume on a daily basis. While many of us know that we should avoid fast-food if we want to live a healthy life, not that many of us are familiar with hydrogenated vegetable oil and how it is damaging to our health. What we are going to be talking about today is what this item that we usually fail to notice on ingredient labels is. Moreover, we will learn where we can find it, and what are the health risks we expose ourselves to when consuming it.
What Is Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil?
Hydrogenated vegetable oil is oil that food manufacturers combine with hydrogen in order to turn it more solid. We call the process that changes the chemical structure of oils hydrogenation. We largely use it in the food industry. While hydrogenated vegetable oil can come by itself, in spreadable form, manufacturers also use it to produce cakes, biscuits, and so on. But why do they use hydrogenated vegetable oil? Because it makes sure the products keep their flavor more and they preserve them for a longer period of time.
There are many health risks scientists associate with the ingestion of hydrogenated vegetable oil. Even so, many brands such as Nestlé and Mars still use it. So do bakeries, restaurants, and takeaways. It is actually more common in such businesses. This is because they don’t have to put the ingredient on any label, as you would do in a supermarket.
Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil vs Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
In partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, the fats that result from the process of hydrogenation are semi-solid at room temperature. This type of fat, called trans fat, is not present in fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, the latter becoming completely solid. So the fats become saturated fats, instead of trans fats. Scientists believe that such saturated fats are not as dangerous for the human health as trans fats. This would make partially hydrogenated vegetable oil worse than fully hydrogenated one.
Risks of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil Consumption
One of the primary risks of trans fats contained in hydrogenated vegetable oil is that they decrease the level of good cholesterol in our bodies (the high-density lipoprotein one), and they increase the level of bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein. Specialists believe that high levels of low-density lipoprotein can increase the risk of heart disease. At the same time, high-density lipoproteins protect the heart from such effects.
Trans fats also allow more chemicals that increase the risk of inflammation in our bodies. At the same time, they block those that fight against it. This causes the body to become weaker in the face of diseases.
Recent research seems to point to the fact that the consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oil severely increases the risk of heart attacks. According to this research, it is enough for a person to ingest two grams of hydrogenated vegetable oil (what can normally be found in one doughnut) for him or her to be exposed to the risk of heart disease by 23%. This is because trans fats increase the levels of triglycerides in our blood.
Trans fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oil can also cause over-activity of your immune system. This can lead to stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
How to Avoid Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil?
Since we have established that hydrogenated vegetable oil is extremely dangerous to your health, here is what you can do to avoid ingesting it. First of all, it is really important that you read ingredient labels when purchasing products that could contain it. Even if the nutrition label reads “zero grams trans fat”, check the ingredients label. You might find that it does have less than 0.5 per serving. FDA regulations allow manufacturers to put “zero grams trans fat” on the nutrition label in this case. But if you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient label, then the product does contain those harmful trans fats and you should avoid it.
According to the American Heart Association, you shouldn’t consume more than 2 grams of trans fat per day. This is applied to a 2.000-calorie diet. You can interpret this otherwise as less than 1% of the calories that you consume on a daily basis.
How Does the Future Look?
People are pressuring the government to ban the use of hydrogenated vegetable oil. This started happening after recent research that showed how dangerous it is to the human health. But the changes are slow to come. However, in Denmark, the government has banned the use of hydrogenated vegetable oil in 2003. This seems to have considerably improved the life of Danish people. Apparently, the rate of heart disease has dropped by 40%. Switzerland also banned it in 2008, but other countries seem not to be so eager to do so. And the food industry is definitely benefiting from this, since their products are cheaper to make and have a shelf-life of years.
Summing Everything Up
More and more studies seem to reveal that the consumption of trans fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oil is a real danger to our health, increasing the risk of heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases. Even so, there are many countries and manufacturers that use them. So until further regulations, what we can do to protect ourselves is to read ingredients labels and avoid products that contain it.