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What's Wrong with Partially Hydrogenated Oils?

Summarized from Eric Armstrong's "What's Wrong with Partially Hydrogenated Oils"

Partially hydrogenated oils make you gain weight the same way that saturated fats do -- by making you consume even more fat to get the essential fatty acids you need. They produce disease over the long term and interfere with the body's ability to ingest and utilize the good fats!

Why Fats are Important
Essential fatty acids, contained mostly in polyunsaturated oils, are the "active ingredient" in every bodily process including as brain cell function and nervous system activity, passing oxygen into the cell, and digestive-tract operations. They are the foundation of life energy and the most important nutrient.

What is Hydrogenation?
Hydrogenation is the process of heating oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some of the hydrogen, which makes it more dense. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil is created that has a consistency like butter, only it's a lot cheaper.

What's Wrong with Hydrogenation?
Unlike butter or virgin coconut oil, hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. A trans fat is an otherwise normal fatty acid that has been "transmogrified" by high-heat processing of a free oil.

The problem with trans fats is that while the "business end" (the chemically active part) is messed up, the "anchor end" (the part that is attached to the cell wall) is unchanged. So they take up their position in the cell wall, like a guard on the fortress wall. But like a bad guard, they don't do their job! They let foreign invaders pass unchallenged, and they stop supplies at the gates instead of letting them in.

In short, trans fats are poisons, just like arsenic or cyanide. They interfere with the metabolic processes of life by taking the place of a natural substance that performs a critical function; and that is the definition of a poison. Your body has no defense against them, because they never even existed in our two billion years of evolution -- so we've never had the need or the opportunity to evolve a defense against them.

You Eat More
If you are consuming lots of saturated fats, you really have no choice but to become fat, because saturated fats contain only small quantities of the polyunsaturated fats that contain the essential fatty acids you need. The key to being thin, then, is to consume foods containing large amounts of polyunsaturated oils. (Those foods include fish, olives, nuts, and egg yolks.) Partially hydrogenated oils make you gain weight the same way that saturated fats do -- by making you consume even more fat to get the essential fatty acids you need. They produce disease over the long term and interfere with the body's ability to ingest and utilize the good fats!

Picture it like this. The trans fats are now the guards along the watchtower. The essential fatty acids (the support troops) are waiting outside to get into the fort (the cell), so they can be distributed along the watchtower (the cell wall). But the guards won't let them in! So they have to find someplace to stay in town. Over time, more and more troops are finding lodging in town. So new houses (fat cells) have to be built to keep them in. The town grows more swelled with troops (fat), and it gets bigger and bigger (fatter). It's not a pretty picture when you realize the town is your belly, buns, face, and neck.

Your Metabolism Slows
Worse, most partially hydrogenated oil is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. That's a problem because soybean oil depresses the thyroid--which lowers your energy levels, makes you feel less like exercising, and generally makes you fatter!

Avoiding Hydrogenation
In the chips aisle, there are maybe two brands that don't contain partially hydrogenated oils: Lay's Classic Potato Chips (not their other brands), and Laura Scudders chips. Then there are the cookies and crackers. Most every single one contains hydrogenated oils. About the only cookie that doesn't is Paul Neuman's Fig Newtons. Among peanut butters, the all-natural brands (Adams and Laura Scudders) don't.

Deep-Fried Foods: The Ultimate Killer
Most of the deep-fried foods served in fast food joints are fried in partially hydrogenated oils! There is no part of a saturated fat that is chemically active, it's inert. Your body can burn it for fuel, but it can't use it to carry out any of your metabolic processes. But because a saturated fat is inert, it can't be hurt much by heat. It's not all that good for you, but it's not terrible either. So if you're frying, use a saturated fat like lard, coconut oil, or butter.

But the absolute worst commercial frying is done by the fast food chains, which almost uniformly do their deep frying in cheap, deadly partially hydrogenate oil.

What You Can Do?
Read food labels and avoid anything that contains the words "hydrogenated". That means partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils, or anything of that kind.

When eating out, avoid deep-fried foods and pretend you're allergic to wheat.

The FDA wanted to put the words, "Warning: Trans fats may be dangerous to your health" on the labels--the same warning that first appeared on cigarettes--but the industry wouldn't let them. And the way the labeling law works, the product can contain a significant percentage of trans fat, and still claim "0%".

For more information, see Armstrong's What's Wrong with Trans Fat Labels?



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