What Is Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil?

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Hydrogen + palm kernel oil = Hydrogenated palm kernel oil.

Bakers and companies that mass-produce donuts, cupcakes, snack cakes, and other processed baked products often use hydrogenated palm kernel oil. They like it for several reasons: it is inexpensive and it helps food last longer on the shelf, to name two. Other food products may also contain this oil, which can be made into different consistencies that are helpful for cooking and baking in restaurants.

Hydrogenation and Trans Fats

Palm oil originates from the seeds or kernels of palm fruit. It is over 80 percent saturated fat and about 18 percent unsaturated fat, much like coconut oil. When the oil is hydrogenated, it turns from a liquid into a semisolid consistency. A hydrogen atom is bonded to the double bonds of fatty acid chains to turn the oil into a thicker consistency that lasts longer and can be used in more ways in cooking and baking.

When this oil is hydrogenated, trans fats occur as a result of the process. Trans fats can have negative effects on cholesterol levels and should be avoided by most people. The American Heart Association recommends that foods made with trans fats should be avoided. Hydrogenated oils may cause cancer or atherosclerosis, and they may also affect the immune system. There are ways to rid the body of the accumulation of trans fats from hydrogenated oils that you have eaten in the past, such as cleanses that flush trans fats from the body.

A Dangerous Ingredient

Since hydrogenated palm kernel oil contains trans fats, it should be limited or eliminated from the diet completely, according to the American Heart Association. If you eat donuts or other foods made with these fats, your cholesterol may be higher than it should be. Even if it is not, you are probably at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and other health problems. Your diet should contain healthy fats like those with omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial to the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently begun the process to ban trans fats in foods. This would affect companies that manufacture cookies, crackers, frozen pizza, and the other foods mentioned above. According to the FDA, 7,000 deaths could be prevented each year by eliminating trans fats from foods. These deaths are the result of heart disease. Artificial trans fat could not be added to foods unless permission was granted from the FDA. It would be treated as an additive, meaning that food producers would need to get the okay from the government before adding it to any food that they produce.

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