Hidden Dangers Part 2: Hydrogenated Oils

Hidden Dangers- Hydrogenated Oils


Wait! Keep reading, the story about trans-fats is not over! Even though labeling requirements have helped, these are still sneaking into our foods. The good news is that, according to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, the amount of trans-fats we consume has dropped significantly in the last 30 years.  However, our goal must be NO trans-fats added to our foods.*


During recent travel we noticed how easy it was for people to unknowingly make a dangerous health choice when they reached for “cream” for their tea or coffee. Sitting right next to the half and half and milk was a larger container of something labeled “creamer.” Without a strong magnifying glass, it was impossible to read what was in the package. The label of the “creamer” featured 

a tranquil picture of a cow and the name of the “dairy” corporation.  But the second ingredient (after water) was hydrogenated oils. Make no mistake, this is neither “dairy” nor “cream.”  Any label with the word “hydrogenated oil” means trans-fats.


Remember, trans-fats have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack and cause inflammation throughout the body, setting it up for diseases of aging. These oils show up in packaged foods such as peanut butter, microwave popcorn, cakes, biscuits, crackers, cereals, frozen foods like pizza, tortillas, granola bars, and even some beloved margarine brands (recall the lovely TV commercial jingle, “Everything’s better with …?”). Most of the coffee creamers in your grocery, flavored or plain, are full of these dangerous oils.

In our last newsletter, I mentioned the importance of label reading. For trans-fats, this is critically important because of an existing US FDA ruling that allows manufacturers to label a product as “zero grams trans-fats” when there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. This is rapidly changing for the better, as the FDA (as of May 2018) has ruled that NO trans-fats can be added to manufactured foods after January 1, 2020. But for the next 16 months, keep doing the label reading. (As long as there are manufactured foods, label reading is a good idea!)  And starting now, commit to a pantry that is free of hydrogenated oils. Look for label words like: hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, shortening, margarine. 
If you are eating out, feel free to ask to see a list of ingredients in foods or ask if they use lard, margarine, or shortening to cook their foods.
Lastly, do not eat fried food out at restaurants! Restaurants often use hydrogenated oils; and when cooking oils are heated past their smoke point, or heated repeatedly, the oils are damaged and become toxic, leading to dangerous inflammation in the body.  If you want to fry food occasionally at home, start with a healthy oil, don’t heat it to smoking temperature, and don’t re-use the oil.
* There are some trans-fats that occur naturally in small quantities in foods, such as meat and dairy, specifically beef, lamb and butter. While a few studies have suggested that these naturally occurring trans-fats do not have the same harmful effects as industrially produced trans-fats, the data are still inconclusive on the comparative risks.  This does not negate the overall goal of eliminated added trans-fats to foods during food industry processing.

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To your health,


Robert Pendergrast, MD, MPH

Aiken Augusta Holistic Health



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