by Marion Nestle
Dec 31 2007

Trans-fat substitutes: How?

Here’s a quick question, just in: “I finally got the chance to finish What to Eat, and I noticed that you didn’t talk about non-hydrogenated margarine in your margarine section. I’m not wondering if it’s better for you because I’m sure it’s still soybean oil with a bunch of stabilizers, but I’m just wondering how it’s made.”

Response: I did actually, but in two other chapters, the next one and the one on fats and oils so the explanation is hard to find. Sorry about that. Here’s the deal: companies use variations of two methods: (1) substitute a highly saturated fat like palm kernal or coconut oils, or (2) mix a totally saturated fat (which will not have any trans) with an unhydrogenated fat (also trans-free) until you get the degree of thickness required. Both methods increase the amount of saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats raise the risk of heart disease, but not as much as trans. So the substitutes are likely to be marginally better than oils with trans.

  • dorothy

    what a thin person can eat to put on weight, and the cure for sleen

  • Corey

    So if an oil is fully-hydrogenated, than its not a trans fat? Even if it is artificially fully-hydrogenated?

  • No, it’s not. Trans fats are unsaturated. The trans configuration refers to hydrogens on each side of a double bond. Fully hydrogenated fats are fully saturated and don’t have any double bonds. You have to be an oil chemist to understand all this stuff, but I hope this helps.

  • Julia

    What’s the deal with straight up coconut oil? There seems to be a lot of hoopla going around regarding its benefits.

  • not all saturated fats are bad for you. coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid and processed differently by the body. it actually has amazing health benefits, including weight loss, lovely glowing skin, and heart health. check out some research for yourself.

  • TwistBarbie

    I’m curious about coconut oil too, but I’m certainly not going to do my research at Sheesh!