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Good morning! Would like to chat about hydrogenation, is it really that bad? Heat has allowed us to cook foods we otherwise wouldn't be able to eat, no?

I just wanted to kind of talk about hydrogenation, it's so funny how we as people tend to get on "fads" and just "go with the flow" . . Ever since we all hear hydrogenation is bad we just assume it as fact and believe it! I am not a scientist, and I am still researching about the process, but to me using high heat with anything is nothing to freak out about! It was high heat that allowed us to break down foods we would have never been able to eat, tubers, vegetables, grains!
I think things like this is what makes it grateful to be alive in our time, we can take something like palm oil which is a liquid, and by using the gift of heat we can turn it into a semi-solid!

I just wanted to hear your opinions about hydrogenation. Obviously you can always find a study to prove anything and usually the studies are skewered to yield a certain result. Just going with my gut it doesn't seem like high heat is so bad! And hydrogen is natural, no?

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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  1. Equating hydrogenation with high heat makes no sense. Mere heat is quite a different beast than a several hour long, industrial chemical process that home cooks do not and cannot use.

    1. Hydrogenation is adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats to make them saturated... You know, saturated fats... the ones that cause cardiovascular problems.

      Heat has nothing to do with it. And saying hydrogen is natural is as absurd as saying chlorine or arsenic is natural. Both can still kill you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Njchicaa

        Actually, I have seen many studies/articles that say artificially hydrogenated oils are the artery cloggers and that saturated fats do not clog arteries.

      2. Well this is why I made this topic so I can learn more. No I really don't know what it is that's why I posted this topic. I read it basically involves forcing hydrogen into fats at high temperatures, so to me I don't have a problem with heat, to me that means something similar to cooking, I mean I cook stocks for days at a time so those must get to a certain high temperature, no? And the part about hydrogen being natural I thought it is, I'm just trying to figure out why as a people we tend to latch onto things and call them "poisons" and such and completely re--arrange our lives around these "fads" . .

        4 Replies
        1. re: certifiedhumane

          It isn't a fad and it isn't a matter of opinion. It is a matter of science, and unlike most food science issues, this one is unusually well-settled. Heat may be one of the processes of adding hydrogen molecules, but it can also be done with electrolysis or the use of a catalyst. In fact, hydrogenated oils were originally made by bubbling hydrogen gas through oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst.

          There's an enormous amount of information on the internet about hydrogenated fats and the health issues. I know it can be hard to sort through information on the internet but start with credible sources such as the Mayo Clinic or the Harvard School of Public Health.

          Please do NOT start with a biased mindset. You seem to have assumed that it is a crock and that the studies are flawed or fraudulent and that the whole thing is a fraud. A mere glance at a Wikipedia entry would have told you that heat (and pressure) are just a process. It is the result that is the problem.

          I can take a lovely little flower, crush it, mix it with lime, and boil it. Voila. Opium. But it's OK, because heating is OK.

          And as Njchica said, natural doesn't mean harmless.

          I think the reason people do latch onto "fads" - not that the trans-fat issue is an example of a fad - is because they didn't take chemistry courses in high school and college.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            Hey thank you so much. I won't lie some days the obsessions I have with food get to me and I just want to open up a tub of old Skippy or Jif peanut butter, you know??

            I will give you an example, I used to only buy organic sugar because of the issue with bone char and refined sugar. I don't mind bone char, in fact I think bones are good for you, however my issue was I couldn't get an answer as to WHERE the bones came from, I needed to know the cattle were treated humanely..
            Then I started reading more into it and read that the cattle come from India and Afghanistan, and so in my mind I am going well heck India worships the cow. And then I moved on to the supposed "toxic" things they add to sugar to get the impurities out of it, but to me that's what could make organic sugar actually more "toxic!" What's actually cool is they drop these "chemicals" I want to say, I forgot what they are called, and they go in and collect all the impurities in the sugar and then rise to the top so you scoop it out!
            I don't think we are supposed to eat sugar without processing, it's all of these things we have created in our generation that really make all of this food so "good" and enjoyable!

            Admittedly I want to like hydrogenation, I would love to eat some of my old favorite foods, however I really truly just like putting my own "spin" on things and I like the way I think. I'm not a scientist and maybe I'm completely bonkers. To me the words high heat doesn't equal anything negative in my mind, in fact the opposite, I believe cooking makes us able to get more nutrients out of something!

            I will definitely research more about this, please keep me informed :) Have a good one :)

            1. re: certifiedhumane

              you BOIL stocks. Water doesn't get much above 212 before the pot goes dry. this is NOT high heat, not at all...!

            2. even poison ivy is "natural"

              In a word - YES - Hydrogenated fats ARE that bad.

              Not sure how "high heat" has anything to do with why hydrogenated fats are so bad (other than how they are made). As a previous posted stated, high heat is the process. It's the end result that is what is so bad for you.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Clams047

                But what exactly is that end result?!?!?!? Our bodies don't know what to do with it? Has that really been proven? Just curious... Have a good one

                1. re: certifiedhumane

                  Hydrogenation is used to solidify fats (make them less liquid / more solid). Harder fats tend to build up in one's arteries / increasing the presence of artery clogging compounds often referred to as plaque which tend to lead to early onset of heart disease.

                  Naturally saturated fats have a similar result, but the artificially prepared trans fats have been proven to be even worse - probably because trans fats tend to lower preferable HDLs (the "good" fats), while naturally saturated fats then to raise them. Both types tend to increase unwanted LDLs.

                  End result is there are numerous studies which show diets high in trans fats significantly increases the presence of heart disease via clogged arteries.

              2. The reason hydrogenated fats are so unhealthy is that they are chemically treated to stay hard at room temperature. Which is exactly what they do in your arteries. Vegetable oils should NEVER be heated because they are then oxidized which renders them highly carcinogenic. When heated they become sticky, causing cholesterol to clump together. Here are several articles which will explain this in further details. There is no reason to not bake and cook with healthy organic saturated fats. After all, that is the result that you are looking for, saturated fats bake and fry to foods perfection..and are safe at higher temperatures.

                http://optimumnutrition.wordpress.com...
                http://optimumnutrition.wordpress.com...
                http://optimumnutrition.wordpress.com...
                http://optimumnutrition.wordpress.com...
                http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/
                http://thenourishingcook.com/wapf-die...

                8 Replies
                1. re: Mangogirl

                  Ok so can you go more in-depth for me with that? They aren't supposed to be heated, well that doesn't make sense right? Vegetables are meant to be cooked, why would it be wrong to heat up an oil? What does oxidized mean? Exposed to air? How and why does this render it toxic? Thanks so much this has proved to be a great "learning-filled" morning :D

                  1. re: certifiedhumane

                    If you've ever taken high school chemistry you'd see that heat can accelerate a chemical change. It's not the heat itself that's damaging, it's the underlying alteration of the molecules or chemical compounds.

                    To use a popular example, nobody would willingly consume chlorine or sodium by themselves, but as the table salt compound they're essential to life functions.

                    1. re: certifiedhumane

                      Vegetables aren't "meant" to be cooked. The plants are not trying to produce food for us. Vegetables (or you could technically call them fruit) like zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc are supposed to be consumed raw by animals who will then disperse the seeds contained inside when they leave their digestive system.

                      1. re: Njchicaa

                        Ok whoa whoa whoa wait a minute here's something where I could chime in with my own knowledge, golly!
                        I thought some people were under the impression that some plants actually have created systems of protection, For example the problem with phytoestrogens from soy and such is that they are actually the plant's defense mechanism from being eaten. Some believe this is actually a defense mechanism where-by the plant is producing hormones so when the predator eats it the predator will no longer be able to reproduce and therefore the plant has increased its chance for survival!
                        Very interesting..

                        thank you ferret i have learned alot today :) more than I ever did in biology ahaa :)

                        1. re: certifiedhumane

                          Some seeds are dispersed by animals, some not. If an animal has role, it's usually because they eat the fruit, but not chew or digest the seeds. If the animal actually consumes the seed, then it does not help in the dispersal. Berries are good example of the former, grains the later.

                          Some plants have defenses in the seeds (or other parts) that discourage consumption in one way or other. That hormone idea might be valid, but I doubt if it is fully researched and proven. Don't forget that nearly all the plants and seeds that we eat have gone through years, even centuries, or domestication and development. Humans have selected the plants to minimize unpalatable aspects, or figured out ways of removing them before consumption. That includes washing, leaching, and cooking.

                          When doing research on foods, keep the broad picture in mind. Don't just latch on to one person's cause.

                          By the way, where do you get the idea that hydrogenation involves high heat? And what does that have to do with palm oil?

                          1. re: certifiedhumane

                            Yes, some plants produce chemicals that are toxic or distasteful to herbivorous consumers (predators eat animal prey). However, these compounds would have to have an effect that the herbivore can detect - such as illness, death, or even just an unpleasant taste. No non-human animal can figure out that over a period of several-many years (depending on the lifespan of that particular species) that eating plant X caused them to have fewer offspring than did animals that did not eat plant X. So if plant X is available and does not cause ill effects that the animal can detect, it is going to eat plant X. Not to mention that phytoestrogens have only a weak fertility suppressant effect. Animals need to eat a lot of it before it has much effect, if any.

                            The problem with the ONLY study done on the effect of phytoestrogens (on birds) is that the study was conducted during a prolonged drought. Guess what happens to animal fecundity during droughts?

                            Further, there have been studies that have shown that phytoestrogens do not affect the fecundity or survival of insects.

                        2. re: certifiedhumane

                          This is first year high school inorganic chem. Oxidation-reduction (aka redox) is just a change in the number of electrons. In oxidation (rust is a commonly observed form of oxidation), electrons are lost. In reduction, electrons are gained.

                          Don't confuse the word/element "oxygen" with the process of oxidation. What you see when food oxidizes (i.e., turns black or rots) may result from the presence of oxygen but what is going on is the chemical process of oxidation.

                          Where did you get the idea that "vegetables are meant to be cooked"? Says who? Lots of people eat lots of uncooked vegetables. For most vegetables, cooking or the extent of cooking is purely personal preference. Do you cook the lettuce in your salad?

                        3. re: Mangogirl

                          Mango:
                          While the topic of this thread is undoubtedly important, many of your sources seem to be self-trained cooks or diet "experts". While I am not necessarily arguing about their conclusions (some seem sound and some rather iffy) I would prefer to accept recommendations from professional scientists, and not someone flogging a diet book or dietary products.
                          You comment that vegetable oils should never be heated is even contradicted by some of your own sources. You made me curious, so a quick google search easily found (non-scientific) sources recommending olive, coconut, sesame and canola oils for cooking, and others saying not to use each of them. When I have time I think I'll try a deeper search.

                        4. Since several of your other threads are about milk, I wonder if you are really talking about
                          homogenization or pasteurization. One is a mechanical process of breaking up fat in milk so it can't separate into cream. The other is heating milk just enough to kill most bacteria, but not so much as to alter taste.

                          Hydrogenation is a process of adding hydrogen to molecules, turning them into new ones with different properties. In food it is mainly used to turn vegetable oil into margarine and other solid fats. It is done at low temperatures in the presence of a catalyst. See the WIki article on hydrogenation for details.

                          In the past margarine was promoted as an inexpensive and healthier alternative to lard and butter. Now the medical consensus is that the saturated fats produced by hydrogenation are worse for your health than the naturally occurring ones. Baked goods now mostly use saturated fats like palm oil, so they can proudly claim no 'transfats'. I'd suggest looking up the Wiki article on transfats.

                          Initially the health reasoning was that doctors observed fat deposits in the blood vessels of heart attack and stroke victims, and reasoned that if you ate less of similar fats, that there would be fewer deposits. Further research has shown that the body creates many of those fats (including cholesterol), so the issue becomes much more complicated.

                          You asked is hydrogen natural. Yes, so are all the other elements, including arsenic. Natural v. synthetic (made in lab or factory) is not a meaningful distinction when talking about whether a food, chemical or compound is healthy or toxic.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            Thanks for your great (as usual) info, paulj. I remember reading about the human body not knowing what to do with the extra hydrogen molecule, so that molecule just sticks itself to random cells, hampering their function. Is this something you've read/heard of?

                            1. re: sandylc

                              I heard of such an idea. If I'm not mistaken, fat molecules have a number empty slots, that is there varying degrees of saturation.

                              pH, the measure of acidity, is a measure of the number of free hydrogen ions. That is, some of the water molecules (H2O), split into an OH- and H+ (H+ is a proton without electron). There's more to it than that, but in context it means that naturally there are free hydrogen atoms (ions actually) in the body.

                          2. I'm starting to understand your concern about heating vegetable oils. There's a lot of nonsense on the internet stating one should <never> heat vegetable oils. While it's true that oils should not be over heated, each has a relatively safe maximum temperature, above which degradation into potentially hazardous products will begin. Generally speaking, it's best not to heat an oil above it's smoking point, but there are minimal problems up to that point. If done so, the heat is not causing problems with onset of hydrogenation, but rather degradation / a breakdown of the oil into new compounds, many of which may not be healthy.

                            Some oils, such as peanut oil, are relatively safe for high temperature frying. Others, such as olive oil, should not be heated much above 375F, but even different olive oils can withstand different safe temperatures.

                            Restaurants liked the use of trans fat oils because they tend to have high smoking points for use in high temperature frying. Unfortunately, they are inherently bad for one's health, even if not heated above / near its smoking point.