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What is Hydrogenated Fat?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 16, 2024
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When any kind of oil has gone through a specific manufacturing process, the resulting substance is called hydrogenated fat. Even though most oils in pure form are heart-healthy, once oil has been turned into hydrogenated oil, it is no longer good for the body. In fact, this type of fat is thought to be extremely harmful to the heart, and the the body as a whole. Many packaged foods contain hydrogenated fat.

Hydrogenated fat is produced when hydrogen is added to oil, which turns the liquid oil into a solid block of fat. Manufacturers encourage this process, since foods containing manufactured vegetable oil have a longer shelf life than foods that do not contain hydrogenated fat.

Even though the process of hydrogenating certain oils may seem like a recent invention, this process was invented during the 1890s. Chemist Paul Sabatier devised the process for turning certain substances into hydrogenated substances. One of the first foods to contain hydrogenated fat was margarine. Following Sabatier's lead, chemist Wilhelm Normann experimented with various oils until he found a way to turn pure oil into hydrogenated oil. From that day forward, foods containing hydrogenated fats could be found in abundance.

During the 1980s, considerable medical research was conducted as to the effect of hydrogenated oils on humans. These studies showed that hydrogenated oils likely contributed to heart disease, cancer, stroke, and many other serious ailments. Following these reports, some food manufacturers were forced to reduce the amount of trans fats present in certain packaged foods, though this forced reduction did not eliminate trans fats from the market altogether.

There are thousands of packaged food products that contain hydrogenated fats. Aside from these packaged products, natural trans fats can be found in certain dairy products. Natural trans fats cannot be avoided, though the amount of trans fat in these products is minimal compared to the amount of hydrogenated fat inside of packaged food products.

To find out whether or not a product contains hydrogenated fat, it is important that consumers read packaged food labels. Any food product containing partially hydrogenated oil or hydrogenated oil should be avoided. It is also important to note that not all packaged food products must warn consumers about trans fats. Each country has different guidelines in place that determine whether or not food manufacturers must disclose any amount of trans fat contained within a product.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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Discussion Comments
By anon311805 — On Jan 04, 2013

I guess it's because you have a choice to buy this type of food or not. Like smoking or drinking beer, you have a choice. You know it's very, very bad for your health, but you choose to eat bad food, or eat good food!

By anon158191 — On Mar 06, 2011

i am making homemade chocolates, and i have to know if they contain hydrogenated fats, so i want to know the maximum how many chocolates should be eaten in a day which will not harm your health.

By naturesgurl3 — On Dec 13, 2010

Great article! I love articles like this that tell the unbiased, unvarnished truth about things like hydrogenated fat foods.

Things like this is why I eat a raw food diet as much as possible. There are just so many different chemicals out there that can come into your body if you aren't careful, so after years of reading labels and trying to only choose foods without saturated fats and the like, I just gave up on it and went raw.

That way I don't have to worry about what I put in my body, and I can rest easy without having to read a thousand labels before I buy my groceries.

If you've never eaten raw, you might want to consider it -- it's actually not as hard of a change as you might think, and you really do feel so much better once you get into it.

By zenmaster — On Dec 10, 2010

Good article -- I think that way too many people get confused about the whole trans and hydrogenated fats and oils thing, and when you throw in the idea of healthy fat, it just becomes too much so they give up on it.

It took me a really long time to get it too. For some reason, I thought that healthy fat was more like a healthy amount of fat, meaning that you could eat whatever fat you want, as long as it was in a small amount.

Needless to say, that was definitely wrong, but now I understand more about it, so I always stock up on my healthy fat foods -- nuts, avocados, olives, etc.

Of course, I haven't cut out my saturated and hydrogenated fats entirely, but I'm working on it...

By yournamehere — On Dec 09, 2010

If hydrogenated fat is so bad for you, then why do you still have stuff like margarine on the market? I mean, I'm all for a free economy and what-not, but if they really are so dangerous, then why aren't they regulated, the same way that tobacco or alcohol is?

I'm not saying that you should make it illegal to buy hydrogenated fat foods. But if fat hydrogenation is just so unhealthy, then why do people even still buy stuff like that? It just sounds like such a destructive thing.

I don't know, I guess I just wish that more people knew about how dangerous this was, like if there was some kind of warning put on foods like that.

What do you all think?

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