The Dangers of Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Humans usually judge food not by its nutritional content but by appearance, taste and expiration date. One usually prefers delicious food that does not spoil fast. Little does he know that the idea behind this food preservation is mostly attributed to the presence of Trans Fats. Trans fats have a number of advantages in food making but these advantages are outnumbered and outweighed by the damaging effects it has on the human body. Trans fats, especially when taken in large amounts, bring about a variety of physical and physiological conditions that may either lead to permanent disability or even death.

The Definition, Structure and Function of Trans Fat
A basic knowledge of trans fat is essential for one to be able to understand why and how exactly it causes certain damaging effects on the human body.

Definition. Trans fat, trans-fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oil, is a type of fat which, according to some doctors, is the worst of them all (High Blood Cholesterol, 2010) for it is the one responsible for raising ones LDL, or bad cholesterol, and lowers ones HDL, or good cholesterol. A significant increase in LDL and a corresponding decrease in HDL cholesterol both create the perfect scenario for a heart disease.

Structure. Trans fat is formed through a process known as hydrogenation. This involves the addition of hydrogen to vegetable oil to form trans fat. Trans fats are chemically more solid than oil, which makes the latter less likely to undergo spoilage.

Function. The use of trans fat in the manufacture of foods cannot be emphasized too heavily. Among its numerous benefits in food industry and manufacture, trans fat helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel (High Blood Cholesterol, 2010). This makes trans fat ideal for use in commercial baked goods such as cookies, crackers, pies and cakes, as well as fried foods like French fries and doughnuts. Margarines and other shortenings also contain high amounts of trans fat. Chickens, potatoes and fish fried in hydrogenated fat are also not spared.

The Damaging Effects of Trans Fat
Despite the aforementioned benefits of trans fat in delaying food spoilage, several decades of research have come up with the conclusion that trans fat is the one to blame for at least 30,000 premature deaths in the United States alone every year (The Dangers of Trans Fat, 2010). These deaths may either be directly or indirectly brought about by the numerous damaging effects of trans fat heart disease, cancer, diabetes, immune dysfunction, and obesity and reproductive problems. (The Dangers of Trans Fat, 2010)

Heart Diseases. Heart disease is one of the leading killers of men and women. According to the latest data by the World Health Organization, heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, accounts for 16.7 million, or 29.2 of total global deaths, (Cardiovascular disease, 2010), with around 2600 daily fatalities in the United States alone (Heart Disease, n.d.). Trans fat carries out this evil task by increasing LDL, insulin and triglycerides levels and at the same time lowering the amount of HDL.

Cancer. Another damaging effect of trans fat is that it is possibly linker to colon cancer. A 2001-2002 survey that used data from University of North Carolina Hospitals found out that the presence of colorectal polyps in 622 patients are caused by a consumption of high amounts of trans-fatty acid. (Pugliese, 2008)

And as if that was not enough, trans fat is also linked with breast cancer. According to European researchers, women with the highest blood levels of trans-fats had about twice the risk of breast cancer compared to women with the lowest levels (Trans-fats linked, 2008).

Based on the above statements, trans fat is known to have carcinogenic properties and the fact that it can be found in several kinds of foods may be the reason behind the widespread occurrence of cancer. It is also possible that since not all people may be that familiar with trans-fat and its damaging effects, then this accounts for the reason why most people simply wonder where their cancer came from.
Diabetes. Based on the results of the 1993 Nurses Study with data taken from 85,000 women, those who ate the most trans fats were more likely to become diabetic (Spilner, 2009). Since diabetes is most often linked with a significant increase in LDL levels and reduction in HDL levels as well as obesity, the possible cause of diabetes, which is trans fats, may therefore be similar to the cause of obesity and negative changes in LDL and HDL.

Immune Dysfunction. One of the most damaging effects of trans fat is in the cellular level when it distort the cell membranes and other cell structures (Danger of Trans Fats, n.d.), for these are the very parts of the cell that are responsible for controlling the entry of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms into the cell. Thus, the protective mechanism of the immune system may be breached.

This otherwise harmful situation may also lead to a number of other dangerous effects such as a possible damage to the brain, cancer due to the destruction and malfunctioning of cells, and diabetes due to the damage to insulin receptors in the cell.

Obesity. Another horrible effect of trans fat is in the multiplication of adipose or fat tissues leading to obesity. According to the 2003 Trans Fat Press Conference of the U.S. Department of Health in Washington D.C., bad fats like trans and saturated fats contribute heavily to obesity which is one of Americas fastest-growing diseases where 200,000 Americans die from annually, and where the economic impactis 117 billion. (Thompson, 2003). Aside from this fact, obesity may also lead to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Reproductive Problems. Lastly, trans fats may also cause fertility problems among the women. Trans fats are believed to increase the risk of fertility problems by 70 or more (Wheldon, 2007). A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health located in Boston was able to identify 438 cases of fertility problems among 18,500 women. From this data, it was found out that those women who utilized trans fat as their source of energy instead of polyunsaturated fats or carbohydrates faced a greater risk of infertility because of ovulatory problems. This clearly means that perhaps a number of cases of infertility may be due to the simple habit of eating foods like doughnuts and pies that actually seem harmless.

Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, are indeed extremely damaging to the human body. Among the damaging effects of the consumption of trans fats include the development of heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes. It may also lead to abnormal physiological changes like immune dysfunction, obesity, and reproductive problems. Knowledge of these harmful effects of trans fats will not only serve as a warning to all consumers of partially hydrogenated oils but also a reminder that ones health, happiness, and physical well-being depend a lot on the food he eats.


Post a Comment