Partially Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil

by Gloria

Visitor Question:

I'm curious about the effects of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil on health?

Lifetime Fat Loss Answers:

Excellent question. What makes an oil, like palm kernel oil healthy or unhealthy is in the extraction process. It is made from the African oil palm, no relation to the coconut palm! It has been widely used commercially because it is a cheap oil but beware. It is bad enough that it is highly refined but even worse for our health is that you are asking about one that is also partially hydrogenated.

Let me tell you about hydrogenation and it is not a pretty picture! This is a process that turns polyunsaturated oils which are liquid into solids. When they are partially hydrogenated they have undergone the same process but perhaps without adding the soap like emulsifiers that are required to make magarine.

The oil is already rancid from being heated in the extraction process and then it's mixed with tiny metal particles like nickle oxide. Then it gets subjected to hydrogen gas in a high pressure, high temperature reactor. This causes chemical changes that are not found in nature, the so called man-made trans fats which are toxins to the body.

Trans fatty acids elevate cholesterol, produce free radicals and create immune damaging synthetic fat. Unfortunately your body's digestive system doesn't recognize them as such and so it doesn't eliminate them. It incorporates them into the cell which means your cells become partially hydrogenated! Trans fatty acids wreak havoc with cell metabolism.

According to the reference sited below, altered partially hydrogenated fats made from vegetable oils can even block utilization of essential fatty acids which can cause many very harmful effects including sexual dysfunction, elevated blood cholesterol and paralysis of the immune system.*

Consumption of hydrogenated fats (which includes margarine) has been associated with many serious diseases including cancer, diabetes, obesity, immune system dysfunction, birth defects, atherosclerosis, low birth weight babies, decreased visual acuity, sterility, difficulty in lactation and problems with bones and tendons.*

Buyers beware. Never buy anything that has been hydrogenated or even partially hydrogenated. That includes margarines of any type, shortening or any partially hydrogenated oils. Pay attention also to the extraction process. If it says mechanically expelled or cold pressed it is unrefined and if it's in a dark colored bottle, better yet.

The safe, healthy extraction process is drilling into the seed or nut under low temperatures with minimum exposure to light and oxygen. These are the expeller expressed, unrefined oils and they remain fresh for a long time stored in the refrigerator in dark bottles. Oils are delicate but stablized in this way they will stay fresh for a long time.

The cheaper oils like soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, peanut or palm kernel are extracted with heat which makes them highly refined and rancid. If it's made by a good company that produces unrefined oils just read the label very carefully. Olive oils need to be cold pressed to be the best quality.

Thank you for your question because it prompted me to revisit my Good Fats page and clarify a little more about these oils.

Since there are so many other unrefined, healthier oils to choose from I recommend eliminating peanut, palm kernel oil and cottonseed oil from your diet. That makes it simple for you!

There are lots of other good, unrefined oils to choose from. For more ideas about which are the healthy oils to choose both for cooking and for salad dressings, go to Good Fats. If you read or scroll all the way to the bottom of the page you will see information about the healthiest oils and the least healthiest.

For cooking I use cold pressed, olive oil unless I am cooking Asian style and then I use expeller pressed, virgin coconut oil. For salad dressings I use extra virgin, cold pressed, olive oil or when I want to be more extravagant walnut or sesame oil.

*Holman, R T, Geometrical and Positional Fatty Acid Isomers, E A Emkin and H J Dutton, eds, 1979, American Oil Chemists Society, Champaign, Illinois,283-302;Science Newsletter, February 1956; Schantz, E J,et al, Journal of Dairy Science, 1940, 23:181-189.

* Engig, Mary G, PhD, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, Enig Associates, Inc. Silver Spring, MD, 1995; Watkins, B A et al, Broiler Poultry Science, December 1991, 32(5):1109-1119.

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