The Adversity of Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Foods

April 7, 2011
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Everyone dreads having to make the frantic 9-1-1 phone call to get rescue for your loved one who has just had a wrenching heart attack brought on by a strictly-fast-food diet. Convenient, quick, and available: Partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, are obscure to the average American, yet Teegala states that every U.S. citizen consumes five to ten grams of these poisonous oils every day in the form of trans fats (1250). While PHOs increase food production efficiency, they should not be used in foods intended for human consumption as they contain the deadly trans fats that increase heart-disease risk and may contribute to diabetes, infertility, and cancer.

PHOs contain trans fats, whose unique molecular structure allows for a longer shelf-life creating a greater attraction for manufacturers who utilize this fat in a variety of foods. Do we want trans fats in our foods? Are they really that bad for us? Fats are essential to cell function and growth, but the Judas of the group is the trans fats. It is important to understand that ruminant trans fats present in natural dairy and meat products are not harmful, while synthetic trans fats concocted in laboratories through hydrogenation are, as indicated by Teegala (1251). Hydrogenation is the process of “heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it” (“What’s Wrong With”). The use of partial hydrogenation increased in the mid 1900s because the process created fats that were cheaper and longer-lasting than animal fats. Consequently, since the 1960s public awareness to reduce the consumption of dangerous saturated fats, the use of these deadly trans fats has skyrocketed to a shocking level, as Teegala reports (1250).

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Adverse health effects in the short term and the long term make PHOs undesirable for consumption. While tasty and satisfying, trans fats deliver the kiss of Judas at the medical checkup several years down the road. The researchers of the Nurses’ Health Study calculated that only a “2% reduction in energy from [trans fats] would reduce [coronary heart disease] risk by 53%” (Baic 24). In fact, foods that you have probably eaten house the deadly fats, including pies and deep-fried foods and chips and some fast food, and even in our neighborhood-friendly Raising Cane’s fried chicken and Texas Toast. A few days ago on Valentine’s Day, I unwrapped my favorite candy, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and I noticed that the label advertised zero grams of trans fat, but, upon closer inspection, I discovered that the list of ingredients contained “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”. Digging up information from Baic, I found that the FDA deceptively considers any amount of trans fat .5 grams or less to be zero (27). Trans fats contribute to a mile-long list of medical ailments gathered by Teegala, which include inflammation and elevated LDL-cholesterol levels and insulin resistance and diabetes and obesity and coronary heart disease and Sudden Cardiac Death and allergies and fetal malnutrition and infertility and gallstones and cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and the list is still growing with more and more frightening diseases (1251-1255). In the summer of 2002, The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine issued a report stating that there is “no safe dietary level of… trans fat,” so then why do companies insist on putting it in our foods (Priesnitz 41)?

If we are to stop this ridiculous health epidemic, this easily preventable killer, this sneaky ingredient that silently wreaks havoc on our insides, we must take action now. Every single day, America consumes about 2,280,400,000 grams of trans fat, and the world about twenty-two times as much. Left unchecked, this regional epidemic will grow into a worldwide pandemic. PHOs contain trans fat. Trans fat is poisonous to our bodies and causes life-threatening illnesses. Illnesses which effectively cause premature death and pain, which result in unnecessary sadness

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and grieving. Therefore, the mouthwatering, flavorful partially hydrogenated oils make our earth

an unhappier and more unpleasant place to live on. But, there is hope. In 2006, “New York City Health Commissioner Tom Friden announced… that the city will ban trans fats in restaurants” (“New York Bans”). With New York on a healthier path, maybe the rest of the nation will follow, or possibly a private organization will take the lead in the trans fat fight. However, the most plausible resolution to the trans fat tangle is to reduce the worldwide consumption by raising awareness and providing education on the topic and alternate, healthier fats, healthier fats such as polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acid.

So write a letter to Rob Eissler or any one of the Texas senators or representatives asking him or her to work for banning trans fat everywhere. Petition against PHOs in Reese’s and in Cane’s chicken. Choose a more nutritious snack, choose a more nutritious meal, choose a more nutritious option at the drive through. You can save your life and others’ too - one bite at a time!

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