What is Hydrogenation (1)?
Hydrogenation is the process of adding hydrogen to a substance. In the food industry this is done to make fats more stable and avoid rancidity (or the off-flavor that comes from bad oil). There are different levels to which this can be done.
Partial Hydrogenation: Some but not all of the chemical bonds receive hydrogen resulting in an altered structure called trans, thus the name trans-fats. These fats have a longer shelf-life and improve the overall stability of packaged products.
Full Hydrogenation: All of the chemical bonds receive hydrogen resulting in a fully saturated structure. These products are more stable than the original oil form, but not as stable as their partially hydrogenated counterparts.
Hydrogenation and Health:
Partially hydrogenated fats, or trans fats have been linked to increased LDL cholesterol which increases risk of cardiovascular disease. A food may have 0g trans fat listed but under the ingredients have “Partially Hydrogenated Oil” listed, this indicates that the product contains <0.5g trans fat per serving (1).
Now as indicated in the Beta Carotene post, it is important to consume dietary fat. It’s essential for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. Recommendations are to consume unsaturated fats and some saturated fats.
1. Talking About Trans Fat: What You Need to Know. FDA. 2015.