Monday, April 30, 2007


Interesterified Oil

I've always gotten along with kids. Years ago, before I became qualified to be considered of grandfather age, many of my girlfriends had children. I used to tell them things while driving along, like, "Do you see that apartment complex over there, called Hidden Pines? Do you know why they call it that?"


"Because they had to tear out all the pine trees when they built it. The trees are all hidden now."

I had plenty of examples like that and many times, they'd pass those little tidbits on to their friends when they'd ride around together. I often wondered about Hidden Valley. Do you really believe a giant food manufacturing plant is safely nestled inside of a quaint valley, with babbling brooks and birds chirping in the hidden valley trees?

Back to reality. Fats and oils are an important part of the human diet. They contain fatty acids such as linoleic and help metabolize vitamins as well as being a source for calories. They are used to enhance the texture and flavor of foods. All oils vary in their range of melting properties.

Partially hydrogenated oils have been around since the early 1900s. Originally believed to be a healthy substitute for natural fats like butter or lard, it is cheaper to produce, performs better under high heat and has a longer shelf life. Today, we have learned all about how bad these types of oils are for you, even worse than oils found in animal fats and some highly saturated vegetable oils. Years ago, health officials touted the health benefits of partially hydrogenated oil, also known as trans fats, over saturated fat. It took a long time of studying to prove otherwise. I don't adhere to any sort of government plot or conspiracy to fool the masses and make big outfits like Archer Daniels Midland super rich at your heart's expense, but I don't think these mega-outfits care about you, either.

“They did so in all innocence, trying to do the right thing,” Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest stated. “Everybody thought it was safe. We thought it was safe.”

Today, researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health estimate that trans fats contribute to 30,000 U.S. deaths a year.

A relatively new oil is over the horizon. Even before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was carefully examining the ingredients on food packages. Recently, I read something new on one of those labels: interesterified soybean oil. Interesting. What is interesterified? Well, I did some research.

As food manufacturers, bakeries and restaurants move away from trans fats because of laws, such as New York City banning them, and federal labeling requirements, something has to replace it, something with the same flair, flavor and consistency that will keep these goods as close to original as possible. The manufacturing process of interesterified oils is very similar to that of hydrogenated oils - without the trans fats. Wow, lucky us! New & Improved! Now, they can put No Trans Fats on their labels and you'll think it's a healthful product, since partial and hydrogenation have become such dirty words.

Interesterified oils, in plain English, are a combination of polyunsaturated oil and fully hydrogenated oil. Simple enough to read, but a whole lot more complex and controversial than that. Technically, interesterification shuffles the fatty acids that make up each fat molecule. Like partial hydrogenation, which generates unnatural trans fats, it produces some molecules that are rare or nonexistent in nature. Science News describes this process as "...chemically or enzymatically removing fatty acids from fat molecules and transferring them to other fat molecules. Because this process recombines fatty acids randomly, chemical interesterification is sometimes called randomization." The article further states that, "To make a fat with new and useful properties, manufacturers typically interesterify blends of different kinds of fats. These blends often consist of a natural vegetable oil and a solid fat such as fully hydrogenated soybean oil. Full hydrogenation forms saturated fats rather than trans fats, which are products of partial hydrogenation."

A recent study reported perplexing changes in cholesterol and blood glucose concentrations in 30 volunteers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who had consumed an interesterified-fat–heavy diet. Fasting blood glucose levels were elevated almost 20% after a 4-week period, and was linked to relatively depressed insulin and C-peptide. In other words, interesterified fat was found to depress the level of HDL (good cholesterol) more than trans fat. In addition, it raised blood glucose levels and depressed the level of insulin. This strongly suggests that interesterified fat could lead to diabetes.

By the way, the FDA advised manufacurers, including ADM, that interesterified fats containing a stearate content of greater than 20% may be properly labeled as “interesterified soybean oil,” or “high in stearic acid” or “stearate rich.” Key words to consider on a list of ingredients, especially if you are diabetic.

In the meantime, let's start getting used to dipping our cloned and irradiated lobster in some artificially flavored, drawn interesterified soybean butter. Yum. Is this really what we want our children growing up on? Remember, it took a long time to figure out how harmful trans fats are to the human body. I guess the facts had been hidden in some valley all along, with the pine trees. Interesting, huh?


A Trans Fat Substitute Might Have Health Risks Too

Stearic acid-rich interesterified fat and trans-rich fat raise the LDL/HDL ratio and plasma glucose relative to palm olein in humans

Partial interestification of triaclyglycerols

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