Fat Processing: Hydrogenation (Previous Sidebar Post)

Fast Food Fact:

Pasteurizing milk destroys large numbers of enzymes needed to keep our bodies healthy. One method of testing for successful pasteurization is the complete destruction of the enzyme phosphatase. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium, but the complete destruction of phosphatase is the aim of pasteurization!
(Source: The Milk Book by William Campbell Douglass MD


It is important to understand that, of all substances ingested by the body, it is polyunsaturated oils that are rendered most dangerous by food processing,
especially unstable omega-3 linoleic acid. Consider the following processes inflicted upon naturally occurring fatty acids before they appear
on our tables:

Hydrogenation: This is the process that turns polyunsaturates, normally liquid at room temperature, into fats that are solid at room temperature--margarine and shortening. To produce them, manufacturers begin with the cheapest oils--soy, corn, cottonseed or canola, already rancid from the extraction process--and mix them with tiny metal particles--usually nickel oxide. The oil with its nickel catalyst is then subjected to hydrogen gas in a high-pressure, high-temperature reactor. Next, soap-like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed into the mixture to give it a better consistency; the oil is yet again subjected to high temperatures when it is steam-cleaned. This removes its unpleasant odour. Margarine's natural colour, an unappetizing grey, is removed by bleach. Dyes and strong flavours must then be added to make it resemble butter. Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as health food.

Partially hydrogenated margarines and shortenings are even worse for you than the highly refined vegetable oils from which they are made because of chemical changes that occur during the hydrogenation process. Under high temperaturews, the nickel catalyst causes the hydrogen atoms to change position on the fatty acid chain. Before hydrogenation, pairs of hydrogen atoms occur together on the chain, causing the chain to bend slightly and creating a concentration of electrons at the site of the double bond. This is called the cis formation, the configuration most commonly found in nature. With hydrogenation, one hydrogen atom of the pair is moved to the other side so that the molecule straightens. This is called the trans formation, rarely found in nature. Most of these man-made trans fats are toxins to the body, but unfortunately your digestive system does not recognize them as such. Instead of elimating them, your body incorporates trans fats into the cell membranes as though they were cis fats--your cells actually become partially hydrogenated! Once in place, trans fatty acids wreak havoc with cell metabolism because chemical reactions can take place only when electrons in the cell membranes are in certain arrangements or patterns, which the hydrogenation process has disturbed.

...Altered partially hydrogenated fats made from vegetable oils actually block utilization of essential fatty acids, causing many deleterious effects including sexual dysfunction, increased blood cholesterol and paralysis of the immune system. Consumption of hydrogenated fats is associated with a host of other serious diseases, not only cancer but also atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, low-birth-weight babies, birth defects, decreased visual acuity, sterility, difficulty in lactation and problems with bones and tendons. Yet hydrogenated fats continue to be promoted as health foods. The popularity of margarine and shortening over butter represents a triumph of advertising duplicity over common sense. Your best defense is to avoid them like the plague.

-from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, available at www.chapters.ca.