Hydrogenation (high-drodge-en-ay-shun) is a process that causes liquid vegetable oil to stay solid at room temperature and remain fresh for an extended period of time. It involves bringing the oil to an extremely high temperature and then forcing hydrogen through it. The process rearranges the oil's hydrocarbon bonds, creating a new molecular structure resulting in a man-made concoction loaded with trans fatty acids, or trans fats. Unfortunately, hydrogenation changes the original oil into a form that your body wasn't designed for.
Trans fatty acids may help preserve food so that it tastes good, but your body can't break them down and use them correctly. Normal fats are very supple and pliable, but the trans fatty acid is a stiff fat that can build up in the body and create havoc. The areas affected include the lining of your blood vessels and brain surfaces, where the build-up can cause dysfunction. Trans fatty acids are linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and sudden cardiac death.
Its hard to avoid trans fatty acids in the typical American diet. You often see "partially hydrogenated" in ingredient labels of processed foods, and the higher up those words appear on the list, the more trans fatty acids contained in the product. Fast foods and cheaper foods tend to include these fats because they stabilize the ingredients.
Food manufacturers prefer partially hydrogenated fats because they are less prone to rancidity and are easy to work with in many food applications. Trans fats are used to help solidify margarine and baked foods, extend product shelf life, improve product "mouth feel," and reduce spatter in cooking, which is why restaurants, including most fast food chains, use hydrogenated oils for frying. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that these hydrogenated oils or "partially hydrogenated oils," as they appear on ingredient labels, can be found in about 40 percent of our grocery store foods, about 40,000 products, including some products most consumers regard as healthy.
Although some food products already list trans fat on the food label, food manufacturers and dietary supplement manufacturers have until January 1, 2006, to add trans fats to the nutrition label. According to the FDA's own research, providing information about trans fat on labels could prevent 7,600 to 17,100 cases of coronary heart disease and 2,500 to 5,600 deaths every year. The FDA estimates that changes in label regulations will save between $900 million and $1.8 billion each year in medical costs, lost productivity and pain and suffering. Because trans fat sneaks under the label radar, foods touting that they are low in saturated fat, saturated fat free, cholesterol-free or made with 100 percent vegetable oil can have so much trans fat that consumers focused on heart-healthy foods would choose to leave them on the shelf - if they knew.
Instead of waiting until the year 2006, some food processors, such as Frito-Lay, Lipton, and Kraft, are ahead of the curve and have begun taking action to work towards creating some trans fat free snack and meal alternatives. Several health-focused food companies like Kashi, Barbara's Bakery, and Newman's Own Organics, make cookies, crackers and other snacks with palm oil instead of partially hydrogenated oils.
Beware of products claiming to be "low in saturated fat" or "extra lean," because they could still contain a large amount of trans fat. Read the food ingredients list. Look for the words "hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or fractionated" in the ingredients. The closer to the top of the ingredients list that these words appear, especially within the first three ingredients, you can bet on the product containing a larger amount of trans fat.
Metabolic studies have shown that trans fats have adverse effects on blood lipid levels--increasing LDL ("bad") cholesterol while decreasing HDL ("good") cholesterol. This combined effect on the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol is double that of saturated fatty acids. This increases the risk of heart disease.
Trans fatty acids are linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and sudden cardiac death. Don’t eat foods with "hydrogenated”, “partially hydrogenated” or “fractionated” oil in the ingredients. Look for another brand that does not include these ingredients.
EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health. They increase your overall health and energy level, improve eye and brain function, help prevent heart disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer's. They are helpful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, asthma, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Raynaud's disease and a host of other diseases.
You can get these nutrients by eating fish, but unfortunately there are high levels of mercury in most fish today. The best way to get omega-3 is by taking fish oil capsules available at any health food store.