Partially hydro-what? Take II

Perhaps most people can pronounce hydrogenated. This doesn’t discredit its pertinence in discussion.

Kelsey Kudak

On Nov. 8, I wrote a small discourse on partially hydrogenated oils and the trans fat these oils contain titled, “Partially-hydro What?”

Nearly a month in its wake, it was brought to my attention that several things were either erroneous or misleading. So I thought I’d correct the mistakes and, being an English major and on the nerdy side, thought I would explain the literary functions of rhetoric and satirical statements. The latter two were a significant component to the misinterpretation of the column.

That said, let’s clarify those corrections necessary. Most obviously, as I corrected last week, the column noted a swap of LDL and HDL cholesterols – LDL is “bad” cholesterol; HDL is its healthier counterpart.

I had found the process of hydrogenation had become popularized in the ’70s. It turns out, however, the “father of hydrogenation” is French chemist Paul Sabatier, whose work dates back to the mid 19th century. Unilever actually introduced partially hydrogenated oils in the 1940s. Also, the inexpensive part of partially hydrogenated oils are the oils utilized to make them – the chemical process itself is more costly.

While my column focused specifically on the unhealthy concerns of the trans fats chemically created by hydrogenation (which are found in partially hydrogenated oils), there are other, naturally occurring trans fats. According to the journal Lipid Technology, CLA trans fat naturally occurs in dairy and meat products. These trans fats are different from the manufactured trans fats of which I wrote and can actually be beneficial and can reduce the risk of heart disease. Chemically created trans fats remain unusable in a healthy manner by the body.

Beginning in 2006, the FDA began to require that labels include trans fat content in all foods. Originally, the fat was being counted among the unsaturated fats (healthier fats utilized by the body in protein reactions). Chemically, the linear structure of a trans fat is linear and similar to saturated fats. Therefore, the body metabolizes both trans and saturated fat in a similar manner – meaning we need to watch both trans and saturated fats in our diet. But continuing to avoid partially hydrogenated oils will not hurt this.

Concerning chemically created trans fat’s comparison to plastic: it was obsolete and ineffective. These two things have significantly different chemical structures, and the only thing that really makes them similar is that neither of them would be healthy to ingest.

Other portions of this column that were misunderstood were elements of rhetoric and satire. Rhetoric, or the manner of “writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion,” is the job of the columnist of a newspaper.

Satire is a kind of literary sarcasm and is a remarkably useful tool to maintain the attention of a reader. It is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: “trenchant wit, irony or sarcasm used to expose or discredit vice or folly.” In other words, when I wrote that, “Ö I’d rather my food become moldy after a month than see it defy petrification,” the chemical process of petrification was not the implication. Of course my food isn’t going to turn into a literal rock as it ages and molds, but it will become crusty and hard – especially without the use of preservatives. I’m fairly certain we are aware that consuming fatty products are not going to make our bodies violently ill like lead poisoning will, but both of these remain dangers for the body that were undetected for a period of time after their societal introduction.

Perhaps most people can pronounce the word hydrogenated. But this ability does not negate the understanding of the product nor its other technically named companions like Sorbitan monostearate (an emulsifier used largely in prepared foods), Sodium propionate (a preservative used in baked goods), or Heptyl paraben (a preservative in noncarbonated soft drinks). Regardless of their pronunciation, the issue of chemical ingredients remains pertinent discussion.

Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]