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October 27, 2006

Here's another informative article from our huge prostate health, prostate cancer and BPH collection - keeping you up-to-date with the latest medical information and health tips in looking after your prostate and leading a healthy lifestyle.

What Exactly Does It Mean When Foods Are “Hydrogenated,” And What Risks Can It Pose?

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Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction — widely used in the processing of cooking oils and fats — that turns unsaturated fatty acids into saturated ones. Technically speaking, during this process unsaturated bonds between carbon atoms are reduced by attaching a hydrogen atom to each carbon. Simply speaking, hydrogenation is a process in which hydrogen atoms are added to vegetable oils.

When the process is not carried out completely (which is common in industry) the ending product is described as being “partially hydrogenated.”

According to Udo Erasmus, author of “Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill” “So many different compounds can be made during partial hydrogenation that they stagger the imagination. Scientists have barely scratched the surface of studying changes induced in fats and oils by partial hydrogenation.”

Why are Foods Hydrogenated?

The French chemist Paul Sabatier discovered the hydrogenation process back in 1897. However, it wasn’t until W. Normann, an Englishman, received a patent in 1903 for the hydrogenation of liquid oils using hydrogen gas that the process became part of industry worldwide.

When a food is hydrogenated, its molecular shape changes, making it more solid and rigid. An oil, for instance, that is hydrogenated will become solid, even at room temperature (such as hard margarine or shortening).

There are two major reasons why foods are hydrogenated, and they both boil down to dollars and cents:

It increases the shelf life of foods.

It increases flavor stability in foods.

Food manufacturers, therefore, love to use hydrogenated oils and fats because their foods stay fresh and good-tasting much longer than any natural food ever could.

The Big Problem

“Hydrogenation, which is used to turn oils into margarine, shortening, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, produces trans-fatty acids, which are twisted molecules. Twisted, their shape changes, and they lose their health benefits and acquire toxicity instead,” says Erasmus.

The creation of trans fats is the major, and until recently overlooked, health risk of eating hydrogenated foods. In fact, major may be an understatement.

So toxic are these fats that the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine said that trans fats shouldn’t be consumed at all. The Food and Drug Administration says that intake should be as low as possible.

Yet, unknowingly, some Americans eat 30 to 40 grams of trans fat daily.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, trans fats:

Double the risk of heart attack

Are responsible for the deaths of 30,000 Americans every year

Increase the risk of diabetes

Other research has shown that trans fats:

Raise your body’s level of bad cholesterol (LDL) while lowering the good cholesterol (HDL)

Increase triglycerides and inflammation

Interfere with vision in children

Hinder liver detoxification

Correlate with increased prostate and breast cancers

Impede insulin function

Interfere with reproduction in animals

Trans fats are found in a wide range of processed foods from the obvious (fried foods, margarine, baked goods, vegetable shortening) to the unexpected (bread, cookies, snack crackers, salad dressings, granola bars, cereals, frozen dinners and much, much more).

In fact, trans fats can be found in 40 percent of all processed foods in supermarkets today.

The Good News

As of January 1, 2006, new FDA regulations require food manufacturers to list trans fats on food nutrition labels (directly under the line for saturated fat). So, as a consumer, you can now avoid trans fats much more easily, just by reading nutrition labels. If you also read ingredient lists, terms to watch out for include anything that says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, along with vegetable shortening or margarine, which may also be hydrogenated.

About the Author:

This article was provided by the world’s #1 most popular and trusted holistic living e-newsletter — FREE to you right now at! The old way of thinking: “holistic living” pertains only to personal health. The new way of thinking: “holistic living” means prevention of the negative and adherence to the positive in all SIX practical areas of life: relationships, finances, career, home environment, safety and health. With the e-newsletter, you will get holistic wisdom from the world’s top experts in all six of these areas — completely FREE with a simple sign-up (and a guaranteed no-spam policy!) at


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