The Harm in Hydrogenation

By Paleo
In Paleo Tips
Jan 16th, 2012

You’ve probably heard the term hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil and it’s a potentially dangerously unhealthy ingredient that is so common in processed foods found in abundance in our typical diets today. Eating like our caveman ancestors and following the paleo diet can help you to avoid consuming the ingredient that is found in so many pre-made, pre-packaged foods. Hydrogenated oils are also often referred to as trans fats.

Trans fats are made in a process that involves adding hydrogen to vegetable oils. According to research, the process of adding hydrogen to oils not only increases your cholesterol levels, but also makes the oil more difficult to digest. The body recognizes the trans fatty acids that make up hydrogenated oils as saturated fats. There are some saturated fats to be found naturally in meat, but the saturated fats found in processed foods appear to be more harmful to our bodies and our health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fats have been shown to increase LDL levels, which are the harmful cholesterol levels, and increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Accordingly, having a high LDL level is a leading risk factor for heart disease and arthrosclerosis. Trans fats are also believed to contribute to increased triglycerides, lipoprotein and inflammation. Increase triglycerides can lead to a hardening of the arteries or an increase in the thickness of artery walls, which can in turn lead to stroke, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Increase lipoprotein can cause an increased buildup of plaque in the arteries. Inflammation is believed by many people to be the basis of the majority of our modern afflictions and diseases, and trans fat is believed to damage the cells that line our blood vessels, thus increasing inflammation.

Hydrogenated oils are used in baked and processed foods, such as crackers, cookies and cakes, just to name a few, typically as a butter substitute. Hydrogenated oils are also often found in margarine products and shortenings. Hydrogenated oils are so valuable for producers of processed foods because they increase the life-span of the food, but their impact on your health can be incredibly detrimental.

Followers of the paleo diet often refer to hydrogenated oil as a “damaged fat,” because the processing of oils is believed to be toxic to our bodies. When following a paleo diet, one of the most important rules is to avoid foods containing hydrogenated oils.

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