Science Lesson: Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Photo from: fooducate

I am going to tell you about fats. Yes, yes, I know, a post about fat after I post recipes that use more than two sticks of butter. But I learned about different types of fats in my biochemistry class and I just want to share what I read to all of you lovely people! Don’t worry, I won’t get into all the gory details. That would be very dull for the both of us. I don’t know all the gory details, anyways.

So there’s all this hype about partially hydrogenated oils and trans fat and how it’s bad for you. But how did it become part of our dietary lifestyle? What the heck does the partially hydrogenated mean? What does it do to us?

Well, there are two main different types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solids (They both start with S, that’s how I remember it.) like butter and lard. They are solid because the hydrocarbon chains on the fat molecules are more tightly packed because it is saturated with hydrogens. This means that there are more single bonds! (Remember high school chemistry?) Unsaturated fats are more fluid and liquid-y like olive and vegetable oils. This means that there are more double bonds and there are less hydrogens (unsaturated)! Double bonds introduce kinks into the fat so it can’t pack as tightly, hence the fluidness. (Bette Jane has a lovely explanation in her post here.)

Photo from:

Okay. Unsaturated fats can go bad if it’s left out in the open because the oxygen will react with it. To prevent this, we do some fancy stuff to it and hydrogenate it so we can put it in food and it won’t go bad. Hydrogenation adds hydrogens onto the double bonds, making it more saturated. This is how we turn vegetable oil into margarine. BUT this process also does some funky stuff and changes the orientation of the double bonds changing them from cis to trans. This is how we get trans fats and this is why it’s in partially hydrogenated oils. Mind blown yet?

It turns out that the trans version of fats also does some funky stuff to our bodies. It raises LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol), which increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fats also increase our body’s inflammatory response, which can also be another risk factor for heart disease. So look out for those trans fats! It’s a fairly easy thing to avoid nowadays.


P.S. Sorry Ive been M.I.A. for a few weeks. My life has been hectic… But I have a great recipe to post as soon as I find the time to compile it!


5 thoughts on “Science Lesson: Partially Hydrogenated Oils

  1. I am enlightened!!

    You’re a doctor, aren’t you? Vietnamese? About 5’3″? Genius? And an infatuation with Ellen as well as all-things-wedding-related? I bet you’ve tried ostrich, haven’t you?

    You have a dog that licks constantly, don’t you?!

    : )
    Ahhh yeah, IT’S KRISLA!

  2. A friend asked me what it was that made some fats worse than others last week and I didn’t know the answer. Next time someone asks me I’ll know. You’re going to make me look smart. Thanks.

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