What Are You Eating?

Ashley - Broadway, Virginia
Entered on February 28, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: illness, question
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Hydrogenated oils are oils that have been modified in laboratories. They are in most of the foods we consume and are incredibly dangerous to our health. So, what exactly are Hydrogenated oils? Natural oils are heated anywhere from five hundred to one thousand degrees. A metal catalyst is used and hydrogen bubbles are passed through the oil. The molecules of the hydrogen are then bonded with the molecules of the oils. Imagine the structure of the oil as Swiss cheese. The holes of the Swiss cheese are where enzymes enter the oil and allow it to break down. The hydrogenation process has taken the holes and filled them with more molecules so that there is no place for enzymes to get in and break it down. Hydrogenated oils are one molecule away from being a plastic. I wouldn’t eat plastic, would you?

You may be wondering, “If hydrogenated oils are so unhealthy then why do producers use them?” Well, when scientists first began creating hydrogenated oils they were thought of as a healthier substitution for butter and the health risks were not fully understood until much later. Also, hydrogenated oils cut costs for manufacturers. Think back to the Swiss cheese. The holes of the “cheese” are filled in, making it almost impossible for enzymes to get inside and break it down. Natural breakdown of the oil is what causes food to spoil. Thus, the shelf life of foods with hydrogenated oils is greatly increased because the enzymes cannot get into the structure. Once the shelf life is increased, the manufacturer has less waste and does not have to replace unsold product that has already spoiled. This saves the manufacturer money and also gives the option to sell goods to places farther away.

Okay, so here’s the problem: hydrogenated oils are just plain dangerous! Think back once again to the Swiss cheese. The holes are filled and enzymes can’t get in to break it down right? Well, the human digestive system also uses enzymes to break down foods and use the elements of the oils necessary to give us energy and vitamins to survive. This is simply not possible with hydrogenated oils. Another great example of this comes from the movie Super Size Me, in the movie they take several items from McDonald’s Menu and place them in jars and a few menu items from regular restaurants that prepare more fresh foods without all the preservatives (hydrogenated oils) and also place them in jars. After ten weeks everything had began to mold, liquefy and blacken but the McDonald’s French fries sat in the jar still golden brown as if they had just been fried to order.

Let’s create another image; picture your body’s cells as wall outlets. The oils you consume can be pictured as extension cords. Now, when you consume good, natural oils they plug into the outlets in your cells leaving an open end for new oils to plug into until being burned off in the form of energy or in the creation of new cells. Hydrogenated oils however, are extension cords with the female end cut off. These oils attach themselves into your cell walls with no end for other oils to attach to. Once all your “outlets” or cells are full of these dead end oils your body must create new cells for any new oils you consume to plug into. This is a major cause of the American obesity epidemic we have been hearing about so much in the media. Another huge concern is cholesterol. Hydrogenated oil both lowers your HDL, (good cholesterol) and also raises your LDL, (bad cholesterol). Hydrogenated oils are an unnatural solution to cutting costs for manufacturers. It is up to you to be informed about what you consume.