Hydrogenated vegetable oil is a common ingredient in many processed foods.

Many manufacturers prefer this oil for its low cost and long shelf life.

However, it’s associated with several serious side effects.

This article examines hydrogenated vegetable oil, explaining its uses, downsides, and food sources.

packaged cupcakes made with hydrogenated vegetable oilsShare on Pinterest

Hydrogenated vegetable oil is made from edible oils extracted from plants, such as olives, sunflowers, and soybeans.

Because these oils are typically liquid at room temperature, many companies use hydrogenation to get a more solid and spreadable consistency. During this process, hydrogen molecules are added to alter the texture, stability, and shelf life of the final product (1).

Hydrogenated vegetable oils are also used in many baked goods to improve taste and texture (2).

Additionally, these oils are more stable and resistant to oxidation, which is the breakdown of fats when exposed to heat. Thus, they’re easy to use in baked or fried foods, as they’re less likely to become rancid than other fats (3).

Yet, hydrogenation also creates trans fats, a type of unsaturated fat that can harm your health (4).

Although many countries have tightened regulations around hydrogenated vegetable oil, it can still be found in a variety of food products.

Summary

Hydrogenated vegetable oil undergoes processing to enhance its taste, texture, and shelf life. This process forms trans fats, which are bad for your health.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils have been linked to several adverse health effects.

May impair blood sugar control

Some research suggests that hydrogenated vegetable oils harm blood sugar control.

One 16-year study in nearly 85,000 women found that those who consumed the highest amount of trans fats, which are a byproduct of hydrogenation, had a significantly higher risk of type 2 diabetes (5).

Another study in 183 people associated trans fat intake with a higher risk of insulin resistance. This condition impairs your body’s ability to use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels (6, 7).

However, other studies give conflicting results about the effects of trans fats on blood sugar levels. Thus, more research is needed (8).

May increase inflammation

Although acute inflammation is a normal immune response that protects against illness and infection, chronic inflammation can contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (9).

Studies show that the trans fats in hydrogenated vegetable oil can increase inflammation in your body.

One small, 5-week study in 50 men noted that swapping out other fats for trans fat raised levels of inflammatory markers (10).

Similarly, a study in 730 women found that certain markers of inflammation were up to 73% higher in those who consumed the highest amount of trans fats, compared with those who consumed the least (11).

Can harm heart health

Hydrogenated vegetable oils’ trans fats have been shown to harm heart health.

Studies reveal that trans fats can increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while decreasing good HDL (good) cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease (12).

Other studies link high trans fat intake to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

For example, one 20-year study in 78,778 women associated high trans fat intake with a significantly greater risk of heart disease, while another study in 17,107 people tied every 2 grams of trans fat consumed daily to a 14% higher risk of stroke in men (13, 14).

Summary

Hydrogenated vegetable oil may increase inflammation and negatively affect heart health and blood sugar control.

Several countries have banned or restricted the use of trans fats in commercial products.

Beginning in 2021, the European Union will limit trans fats to no more than 2% of total fat in food products (15).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also banned artificial trans fats from processed foods in the United States. However, this rule doesn’t take full effect until 2020, and hydrogenated vegetable oils are still present in many pre-packaged and processed foods (16).

Some of the most common sources of hydrogenated vegetable oils include:

  • margarine
  • fried foods
  • baked goods
  • coffee creamers
  • crackers
  • pre-made dough
  • vegetable shortening
  • microwave popcorn
  • potato chips
  • packaged snacks

To minimize your trans fat intake, carefully check the ingredient lists of your foods for hydrogenated vegetable oils — which may be called “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Summary

Although many governments are cracking down on trans fats, hydrogenated oils can still be found in many pre-packaged and processed foods.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils are widely used in the food industry to improve the taste and texture of processed foods.

Still, they harbor trans fats, which may negatively affect heart health, inflammation, and blood sugar control.

Although many countries now restrict trans fats, this oil is still present in numerous packaged foods. Therefore, read food labels carefully to minimize your intake of hydrogenated vegetable oils.