Nutrition Nibble: Hydrogenated Oil vs Partially Hydrogenated Oil

What is the difference between a fully hydrogenated oil and a partially hydrogenated oil?  Partially hydrogenated oil is trans fat.  Originally, partially hydrogenated oil was developed to help preserve foods and create an appealing texture in baked products.  Soon, research showed a relationship between trans fat and heart disease.  Trans fat lowers “good” cholesterol (HDL) and raises “bad” cholesterol (LDL)!

Due to the negative effects of trans fat, the Food and Drug Administration passed a law requiring that trans fat be a part of the Nutrition Facts Panel.  The new labeling law went into effect in January 2006.  The product may contain up to 0.49 grams of trans fat and still say zero grams of trans fat on the label.  So, how do you know if you are eating a food with trans fat?  Look in the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil and avoid those foods!  

What about fully hydrogenated oils?  This type of oil is not the same as partially hydrogenated oil.  The fully hydrogenated oil contains no trans fatty acids.  The process is similar in that hydrogen gas is forced into the liquid oil to change the chemical structure of both types of fat.  This process turns the fat from a liquid form into a solid form.

With partial hydrogenation, the solid is still soft enough to spread.  Think Crisco.  Fully hydrogenated oils are too solid to spread and therefore must be mixed with liquid oil to create a product that is usable and still trans fat free.  Some margarine companies are using this process to create a trans fat free, spreadable product.

My recommendation is to avoid all foods containing partially hydrogenated oils or trans fat.  Inspect the food labels and ingredients list carefully.  If a product says zero grams of trans fat, always check for partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients list.  The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1% of total calories per day from trans fat.  For a person consuming a 2,000 calorie diet that comes to about 2 grams of trans fat per day.  A very small amount!

Click here, American Heart Association, if you would like more information on trans fat and other types of dietary fat.

Eat Well.Feel Well,


Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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