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Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Alternate Names

Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Trans Fats, Trans Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Canola Oil


The process of hydrogenation involves adding hydrogen thereby changing the chemical make-up of the oil (it changes a liquid oil, naturally high in unsaturated fatty acids, to a more solid and more saturated form. The greater the degree of hydrogenation, the more saturated the fat becomes). This results in an oil that has been converted to a semi-solid fat which still melts upon baking, stabilizes the flavor of the oil, and makes it less susceptible to spoilage. It is widely used in processed foods because it is inexpensive, increases shelf life, and produces a desirable consistency in foods. The process of hydrogenation results in the formation of harmful trans fats. A different type of trans fat naturally occurs in foods from animals such as dairy and meat. Trans fats are harmful to the body and are associated with a host of negative health effects including heart disease. Trans fats raise total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol. The National Academies of Science conclude that "...since they (trans fats) are not essential and provide no known health benefit, there is no safe level of trans fats, and people should eat as little of them as possible..."

Partially Hydrogenated Oil - Quick Stats

Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Trans Fats, Trans Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Canola Oil

Allergy Information

Rapeseed Oil



Additional Information

Many countries are trying to ban or greatly reduce the use of trans fats. In 2003, Denmark became the first country to strictly regulate the sale of foods containing trans fats (no more than 2% in any food) thereby attempting to limit citizen intake to less than 1g/day. In 2008 Switzerland followed with similar legislation and New York City banned on trans fats in restaurants. Calgary, Canada, required restaurants to cut trans fats to no more than 2%. Due to tremendous amount of negative press and pressure from consumer groups, food manufacturers and restaurant chains world-wide are trying to change their formulations to remove trans fats. Many fast food chains have already switched frying oils to reduce trans fats. The US FDA ruled that the amount of trans fat in a food item must be stated on the label as of January 1, 2006. Note that foods containing less than .5g/serving can be labeled 0% trans fats. Many health experts believe .5 grams is still too high because consumption of many "zero trans fats" (those with .01-.49 grams trans fats) foods add up. Avoid all trans fats by not consuming items with the words "partially hydrogenated" on the ingredient label. While there has been movement to reduce trans fats, they are still extremely common in processed foods and are difficult to avoid.

Found In

thousands of packaged and processed foods including: bread, snack foods, desserts, baked goods, crackers, ice cream, frozen meals, donuts, fried foods, french fries, margarine, shortening, cookies, cereal, chips, many restaurant and fast foods

Possible Health Effects

Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the harmful effects of trans fats including: increased cholesterol, linked to heart disease and risk of heart attack, inflammation of immune system, stroke, diabetes, resistance to insulin, reduces responsiveness of cells in blood vessels. May also promote development of Alzheimer's Disease.

Allergy Information

May be Genetically Engineered or Modified, Soy

In The News

May 27, 2010: The New England Journal of Medicine reports, "Concerns exist that in reformulating the foods manufacturers may replace the trans fat with saturated fat, in which case the combined content of these fats in the foods could remain about the same or even increase, mitigating health benefits."

Online Resources/Related

Print Resources

Copyright September 6, 2010 Be Food Smart, Updated April 4, 2012

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