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August 9, 2014

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fatty acids

by Helene van den Berg

The levels of SATURATED FATS AND PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED FATS in the diet are far more important than the level of CHOLESTEROL in the diet for most people!


TRANS FATTY ACIDS are unnatural fatty acids, which are produced by the process of hydrogenation and partial hydrogenation of natural “cis” fatty acids. “Trans” and “cis” refer to whether the ends of the fatty acid molecule are on the same side of the double bond (cis) or on opposite sides of the double bond (trans). In nature, most double bonds are cis. Only a small percentage of fatty acids found in milk and meat products, occur as trans- fatty acids. Natural trans-fats have little or no effect on blood lipids. Some naturally occurring trans fatty acids, known as conjugated linoleic acids, have health benefits.

During food processing, the fat is most often partially hydrogenated and some of the double bonds that remain after processing change their configuration from cis to trans.

Hydrogenation offers two advantages: firstly, it protects the foods against oxidation (prolonging shelf life and reduces spoilage) by making the polyunsaturated fats more saturated; secondly, it alters and improves the texture of foods, by making a liquid vegetable oil more solid and making margarine spreadable.

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fatty acids are in EVERY fat-containing food product on our grocery shelves. It is everywhere!. Processed foods have become the staple of the average North American and Australian diet and many other countries are following in their footsteps!. In Europe, many countries have restricted the amount of partially hydrogenated fats and oils in certain food products.

Trans- fats (hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated) block the delta-6 desaturase (D6D) enzyme, causing a deficiency of GLA for the eventual conversion to the PG1 series. With limited PG1 available, PG2 are unbalanced and all of the PG2 bad effects could become manifested. Further, the D6D enzyme is also necessary for the conversion of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) to linoleic acid (LA), an essential step in the production of EPA and eventually PG3. Some of the good effects of the PG3 series help to balance out some of the harmful effects of the PG2 series. But EPA also has an inhibiting effect on the enzyme delta-5 desaturase, which is necessary for the conversion of DGLA to arachidonic acid (AA) and on into the PG2 series. Delta-5 desaturase is also necessary for the conversion of AA to EPA, a negative feedback system in which EPA limits it’s own overproduction.

If trans fats limit the availability of LA for eventual conversion to EPA there is:

  • Not enough EPA to block the delta-5 desaturase for the production of AA.
  • Restriction of the helpful effects of the PG3 in balancing the PG2.
  • PLUS the blockage by trans fats of the PG1 production.

RESULT: PG2 overruns the body!

If this were not enough, EPA and DGLA also compete with AA for the use of an enzyme complex, cyclooxygenase, which converts AA to PG2, as well as converts the other essential fatty acids (EFA) to their PG1 and PG3 forms. Therefore, the consumption of unnatural trans fatty acids opens all the doors for PG2 production and closes all the doors for PG1 and PG3 production.

Delta-6 desaturase enzyme is inhibited, not only by trans fats and alcohol, but also blocked by saturated fats (natural or processed), sugars, smoking, heavy metal toxity and stress!

Read more from Fats

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