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Partially Hydrogenated Oils & Trans Fats

Partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, are no longer, “Generally Recognized As Safe”

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Fat has always been targeted in nutrition news from the fat-free diet craze of the 1980s to the current promotion of the healthy dietary fats including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Americans have learned about another fat in the last 10 years, trans fat, which was added to the Nutrition Label of all processed foods in 2006.

Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. Using trans fats in food manufacturing helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a more pleasant texture. However, the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine found that artificial trans fats are a major contributor to heart disease, and dietary intake of trans fat is directly correlated to higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL).

Since 2006 trans fats have been substantially reduced in foods, food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their food products by over 73% according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Still, trans fats lurk in many popular products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers. The accumulating body of research on trans fat has definitively linked partially hydrogenated oil to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and may cause a heart attack. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply could prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year. Due to the public health risk partially hydrogenated oils represent to Americans, the F.D.A. (the government organization responsible for food safety) has issued a Federal Register notice with its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, for short. If this preliminary determination is finalized, then partially hydrogenated oils would be classified as food additives and subject to premarket approval by the F.D.A. Foods containing unapproved food additives cannot legally be sold in the United States.

Consumers can avoid trans fat now by reading nutrition labels. If “partially hydrogenated oil” is listed in the list of ingredients, chances are the product contains trans fat. By law, a product that has 0.5g of fat or less per serving can be labeled as containing 0g. So if the label says 0g of trans fat, but the ingredients lists partially hydrogenated oil, put the product back and select a new one.

Further Reading can be found in the article below:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Supports FDA’s Move to Reduce Trans Fats in Processed Foods

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Sharon Richter, RD
200 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212.977.7779

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