The new regulations from the South African Department of Health have specified that fats and oils including partially hydrogenated oil shall be specified in the field of ingredients as “vegetable”, “animal”, “fish” or “marine” and list the ingoing type of fat and oils in parenthesis after the class name. In the case of vegetable fats and oils the particular part of the plant from which the fat or oil is derived shall be specified and such fats and oils shall be qualified by the term hydrogenated
So what does this mean to the consumer who is challenged with deciphering what partially hydrogenated oil is and how it affects the product that the consumer is ingesting, for example the partially hydrogenated oil listed in peanut butter?
According to the new SA food guidelines the labeling is incorrect as it does not specify where the source of the oil comes from and it does not specify what other ingredient is included to substantiate partially hydrogenated content. Consumers are dealing with a synthetic trans fat ingredient that is not exactly good for their health.
Synthetic trans fats were created to solve a problem since our ancient ancestors figured out that fried stuff tastes good: vegetable oil is a pain to work with. If it is put on a shelf it tends to go rancid, if it is put in food it leaves an unpleasant oily feel in your mouth. If the same oil is, however; treated with hydrogen, the problem disappears as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, the end product of that process, will sit on the shelf for a long time, and it is extremely palatable. As industrial-scale food processing grew in scale, trans fats featured more and more in all kinds of things you are supposed to put in your mouth. It looked the ideal solution was solved. Except there was a minor side effect, trans fats kill. In the right quantities (which isn’t very much at all), artificial trans fats are like little chemical machines designed to induce strokes and heart attacks. While normal bad fats will merely raise your level of bad cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries, man-made trans fats simultaneously lower good cholesterol too.
A second sife effct of the hydorgenation process is that metals are included.The hydrogenation process requires three components: heat, a metal catalyst and the pressurized hydrogen gas. Reactive metal atoms, such as copper or zinc, are introduced to the hydrogen gas as the gas is forced into the oil. The gas and metal are heated, and the heat helps them bond. The metal atoms also bond to the carbon atoms, allowing the hydrogen atoms to insert themselves between the carbon atoms that make up unsaturated fat molecules. The bonds between the carbon atoms become saturated with hydrogen atoms, turning what was once an unsaturated fat into a saturated fat.
A 2008 study to determine the levels of inorganic metals in hydoregnated vegetable oils determined that these oils contained trace amounts of lead, copper, magnesium, zinc, cadmium, nickel and cadmium.
Lead is a naturally occurring element and is a common industrial metal that has become widespread in air, water, soil, and food. Lead contamination varies and manifests itself in other ways than in green plants. Lead has severe health effects even at relatively low levels in the body and can cross the placenta and damage developing fetal nervous systems (Yu et al., 2001). are
essential for plant growth and human nutrition at low doses but may also be toxic for humans,
animals and plants at high doses. Copper and zinc are required in our diet because they exhibit a wide range of biological functions such as components of enzymatic and redox systems (McLaughlinet al., 1999). Environmental pollution due to copper arises from industrial and agricultural emissions. It is found in soil and water as a by-product from metal finishing in the processing industry and agricultural sources such as fertilizers and fungicidies (Namasivayam, & Senthilkumar, 1999).
Chromium is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, plants, soil, and in volcanic dust and gases.
Human are exposed when eating food, drinking water, and inhaling air that may contain chromium.
Excessive amounts of Cr may be involved in the pathogenesis of some diseases such as lung and gastrointestinal cancers (Donais et al., 1999; Kubrakova et al., 1994; Vique et al., 1997).
Cadmium is known as a principal toxic element, since it inhibits many life processes (Vetter, 1993;
Vetter, 1994; Singh et al., 1998). It can be taken up directly from water, and to some extent from air and via food, and it has a tendency to accumulate in both plants and animals.
None of the trace elements of inorganic metals would be mentioned in the label of the hydrogenated product that consumers use. Consumers have the choice of choosing healthier products that do contain partially hydrogenated oil if they choose to with the proper labeling.
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