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What's Wrong with Partially Hydrogenated Oils? Part 2 of 2

In the last article we talked about how hydrogenated oils reek havoc with our bodies.  So what do we do to avoid these……. Read Below.

Avoiding Hydrogenation

When you start reading food labels, it is astonishing how many products you will find that contain partially hydrogenated oils. In the chips aisle, there are maybe two brands that don't: Lay's Classic Potato Chips (not their other brands), and Laura Scudders chips. Most every other package on the shelf does.

Then there are the cookies and crackers. Most every single one does. About the only cookie that doesn't is Paul Neuman's fig newtons. Among peanut butters, the all-natural brands (Adams and Laura Scudders) don't. All the rest seem to.

Even some items on the "health food" shelf, like Tigers Milk bars, contain partially hydrogenated oils. Can you imagine that?? A product marketed as a "health food" that contains partially hydrogenated oils? If they want to market it as a candy bar, fine.  

The more labels you read, the more astonished you will be at the variety and number of places that this insidious little killer shows up. Do read the labels. Do recoil in disgust, and do throw the product back on the shelf -- or throw it on the floor, where it belongs.

Deep-Fried Foods: The Ultimate Killer

Fortunately, this information is beginning to penetrate the public consciousness. Recently, a news special covered the subject. The reporter got some ofthe details wrong, but the general message was right on the money. And the one surprising tidbit of information in the report was the fact that most of the deep-fried foods served in fast food joints are fried in partially hydrogenated oils!

Now, deep frying all by itself is pretty bad. After all, you are applying a lot of heat. But if that heat is applied to a saturated fat, there is a limit to how much harm it can do. A saturated fat doesn't have a "business end". There is no part of it that is chemically active. It's inert. Your body can burn it for fuel, but it can't use it to carry out any of your metabolic processes.

But because a saturated fat is inert, it can't be hurt much by heat. It's not all that good for you, but it's not terrible either. So if you're going to fry, fry in a fully saturated fat like lard, or coconut oil. Or, use butter, which consists mostly of short-chain saturated fats that are easily burned for fuel.  And butter tastes great. It's so good, in fact that you don't even need to use very much to get a lot of flavor. So at home you can fry with butter to get gourmet-quality food that is also healthy.

Even better, you could fry with coconut oil -- which consists of medium chain fatty acids that contain 2/3's the calories of long-chain saturated fats. They're also metabolized differently, so they're burned for energy instead of being stored as fat. And if that's not enough, 50% of coconut oil consists of lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that's anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungus, and anti-yeast.  

For commercial deep frying, though, butter is prohibitively expensive. Things were better when foods were fried in beef tallow and coconut oil, because they had a lot of flavor and the saturated fats aren't harmed by the heat. But all that saturated fat sounds bad, so restaurants switched to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. One "healthy" Mexican restaurant even advertised that they fried in vegetable oil. That would be somewhat better than partially hydrogenated oil -- assuming that they weren't using partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the first place -- but subjecting the unsaturated fatty acids contained in a vegetable oil to the high heat of a deep frying vat is deadly, especially when the oil is used and reused all day long. The result would be the same kind of trans fats that you get in the hydrogenation process!

But the absolute worst commercial frying is done by the fast-food chains, who almost uniformly do their deep frying in cheap, deadly partially hydrogenated oil. Any fats that escaped being transmogrified in the hydrogenation process are now subjected to the deep frying process. It's a miracle that any of the unsaturated fats escape being transmogrified, if any of them do.

What You Can Do

For starters, read food labels and avoid anything that contains the words "hydrogenated". That means partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils, or anything of that kind (and monodiglycerides, as well).  


In 2006, a new FDA regulation takes effect that requires manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on their product labels. Much as I would like to tell you that you can simply look for "0% trans fats" on the label, it would be useless for you to do so. The FDA wanted to put the words, "Warning: Trans fats may be dangerous to your health" on the labels--the same warning that first appeared on cigarettes--but the industry wouldn't let them. And the way the labeling law works, the product can contain a significant percentage of trans fat, and still claim "0%".

Simply put, the labeling law is nearly useless.  

When eating out, avoid deep-fried foods at all costs, and pretend you're allergic to wheat. (You probably are! Something like 50% of the population is. When you avoid wheat you stay away from both partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup--another deadly ingredient in the American food supply that is rarely used in other countries--except where American corporations are involved.

If you follow those steps, you will do a good job of protecting yourself. But there is a simple thing you can do to help protect others, as well:

When you see a food that contains partially hydrogenated oils (especially if it claims to be healthy), put it back on the shelf upside down and backwards. (Sometimes it's impossible to put things back upside down, so at least put them on the shelf backwards.)

Nutrition is one of the easiest things to learn about to help your performance.  You have to plan ahead but once you do you will see the advantages and your recovery times between practices, meets, or games will be improved.

**Remember to: 

  • Always plan ahead for what you are going to eat 
  • Obtain adequate amounts of protein 
  • Work on your flexibility and 
  • Supplement your diet with a fish oil and multivitamin 

Let me know if I can help. Email me

Alan Tyson  
Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist