Stay Away From Vanaspati (Hydrogenated Oils or Trans-fat)

oil

If you look up at the ingredients list in cookies, biscuits and a host of other processed food products, you would find a very harmless-looking ingredient – hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenated oil, also called trans-fat or vanaspati, is added to food primarily because they have a very long shelf-life and don’t melt easily (1). Hydrogenation makes oil less likely to spoil and makes the food look less greasy (2). What is hydrogenated oil? Hydrogenated oil, or trans-fat, is made by bubbling hydrogen through oil at a very high temperature. This turns the liquid oil into solid fat, creating chemical bonds which have similar structure to plastic (1). Yes, plastic – that was not a typo.

Effects of Hydrogenated Oil on Human Body

Though trans-fats provide several business advantages to food manufacturers, it is found to have extremely negative effects on human body.

Heart Disease

Trans-fat has been found to have strong link to heart disease (5). Trans-fat raises the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) level and reduces the good cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or HDL) level in the blood resulting in plaque buildup in the artery walls leading to heart-attacks (1,6). A 2007 report on the Journal of American Heart Association found a clear link between trans-fat and heart disease (7). The study conducted from 1989 to 1990 involved over 32,000 people and six years of follow-up. It concluded that there is evidence that high trans-fat consumption is a significant risk for coronary heart diseases.

Increased Risk of Diabetes

Consumption of trans-fat has been linked to diabetes. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that trans-fatty acids increased the risk (and poly saturated fatty acids reduce the risk) of type-2 diabetes in women (8). The study concluded that substituting non-hydrogenated polyunsaturated fatty acids reduced the risk of type-2 diabetes significantly.

Links to Breast Cancer

Consumption of trans-fat has been linked to breast cancer. After carrying out a study on a large group of European women taking part in a cancer trial, French scientists have found that there is a link between trans-fats and breast cancer (4). The study found that women with highest blood levels of trans-fat had twice the risk of breast cancer compared with that of women with the lowest level.

The Vanaspati Hoax

“Vanaspati ghee” is heavily promoted and widely used in India. The name itself is a complete lie – Vanaspati ghee is NOT ghee. Vanaspati, the Sanskrit term for plant kingdom, along with the word ghee does not make hydrogenated fat healthy. Wipro’s Sunflower Vanaspati was sold as the “next best thing to pure ghee” (9). We also have vanaspati  brands such as Dalda and several others (10): Vegetable Ghee, Vanaspati Ghee, Karuna Vanaspati, Mayur Vanaspati, Dhruv Vanaspati, Ruchi No 1 Vanaspati, Chanda Vanaspati, First Class Vanaspati, Supreme Vanaspati, Ambuja Vanaspati, etc. (By the way, Wipro sold off its Sunflower brand to Cargill, the multi-billion dollar food conglomerate (9)).

Trans-fat is so toxic that even bacteria and microorganisms do not want to go near them. Food cooked using trans-fat may stay unspoiled virtually forever – a Chicago nutritionist went on television with a 22-year-old cupcake that looked as fresh as just-baked(6)!

What could you do?

Trans-fats do not have any nutritional value, are worse than saturated oils and is a toxic fat that human body does not need (6). Take all steps you could to protect yourself and your family from this toxic fat.

  1. Stay away from all hydrogenated oils. Like cigarettes, trans-fats have no safe level of consumption (5). Stay away from it completely
  2. Do not buy vanaspati or any refined oil for cooking at home. Look for natural minimally processed oils. If you could, procure the raw ingredients and go to a small-scale oil mill to extract oil.
  3. Many restaurants use vanaspati for cooking – it is very cheap and the food does not get spoiled for a long time. It might be in your best interest to minimize eating out.
  4. Read the nutrition label – many processed food such as biscuits, pastries and cookies contain partially hydrogenated oil. Avoid them like plague. Learn to make pastries and other treats at home – it is not hard. Homemade traditional Indian snacks and treats are generally much healthier than packaged alternatives.

The dangers and toxicity of trans-fat is being recognized in the west and the food companies are forced to avoid them due to public awareness. Due to the potentially serious health condition that could result from its consumption, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have mandated that nutritional labeling should list trans-fat(3). The city of New York has banned all artificial trans-fats from its restaurants (3). In 2008, the State of California became the first state in the United States to enact a law to ban all trans-fat from restaurants (5). In India, awareness on trans-fat seem to be very low and that needs to change.

References

  1. Francis, M. The fats you didn’t know could kill you. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-391523/The-fats-didnt-know-kill-you.html
  2. Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/trans-fat/CL00032
  3. Trans Fats 101. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from http://www.umm.edu/features/transfats.htm
  4. Trans-fats linked to breast cancer. News Medical. Retrieved from http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/04/14/37340.aspx
  5. Lawrence, S. (July 12, 2008) California Becomes First State To Ban Trans Fats. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/25/california-becomes-first_n_115081.html
  6. Renton, A. (Sep 26, 2007). Grease is the word. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/sep/27/health.food
  7. Sun, Q., Ma, J., Campos, H., Hankinson, S. Manson, J., Stampfer, M., Rexrode, K., Willett, W., Hu, F. (March 26, 2007). Coronary Heart Disease. American Heart Association. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/115/14/1858.full
  8. Salmerón, J., Hu, F., Manson, J., Stampfer, M., Colditz, G., Rimm, E., and Willett, W. (Jun, 2001). Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/6/1019.full.pdf+html?ijkey=edda05164d820ea652582bf9a388a9ec000de8a9
  9. US co Cargill buys Wipro’s Sunflower Vanaspati brand. (Dec 11, 2012). The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/US-co-Cargill-buys-Wipros-Sunflower-Vanaspati-brand/articleshow/17565121.cms
  10. http://catalogs.indiamart.com/products/vanaspati-ghee.html

  • Divya

    Nice article. I always thought that Vanaspati was a natural and healthy oil.

  • ira gold online

    Very descriptive article, I liked that bit.
    Will there be a part 2?

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  • joe

    good to know vegetable ghee,vanaspati and dalda are dangerous to heart

  • KL Rahil

    Bulshit, I have eaten it for 50 years of my life, and I am still very healthy – with no disease or even its signs. In fact many of them call me a young man and ask me for the secret of my energy, to which I prodly say ‘vanaspati ghee’. As per my recommendation many of my friends have also been using it daily for cooking, and all of them are very happy and much healthier than they used to. Disgrace to all those against it.

    • vbnmn

      dai.. u r making a very great mistake and u r shraing this fucking idea to ur friends also.. i hope u dont read thid message as u might have probbaly been dead … i guess!?

    • umesh

      yes Bull’s shit is better then vanapati oil/ghee.
      And as an exceptional case, your name should be in the world record books, that a man survived 50 years while eating vanaspati ghee and young forever.

      You are a Great young guy healthy,
      good luck to you.
      May you be healthy and happy
      tera Mangal ho

  • Dr. Prashant [edu in CA]

    Well, as a doctor I have taken time to study and research before I have posted my opinions on using vanaspati ghee. As this article says, it isn’t good to be used for a long time, as it poses a serious threat to our health. In our country, the usage of this is increasing at an alarming rate owing to its cheap cost. People generally consume vanaspati ghee knowingly or unknowingly in all morderate hotels and dhabas. I personally advice all of you to stay away from this. If not immediately, it surely affects the health one day or the other. Also, as I have studied, it is even more hazardous for the female body as their bodies by default store large amounts of fat in the form of globules. In case of males, it affects their response to stimulus in the long run.

    Also, the term ghee used after the former word, is misleading. It is no ghee. It is hydrogenated oil i.e. Trans fat. So all of us seem to be paying for our own downfall! It causes high risk of cholesterol, cancer and also BP.

    I once again advise all my fellow friens to reject it, before we get rejected!!

    • Pankaj khandelwal

      Thanks for the useful info but my questions is if it so harmful then y ppl are allowed to manufacture or market this ?y there is no action against these companies? Somebody please inform FCCCI ……

  • VT

    As with most opinions, this piece too is not 100% correct. Any vegetable oil (which generally is 80% unsaturated fat) if FULLY hydrogenated, will convert to saturated fat (and hence visually similar to desi ghee which is also largely saturated fat), and doesnt exhibit any increase in trans fat. Terming hydrogenated oil as trans fat is incomplete and inaccurate. Such FULLY hydrogenated oil doeasnt pose any risk associated to trans fat, because it doesnt have any. Of course, saturated fat has its own health problems (think cholestrol), and should be had in great moderation (and applies to any saturated fat like desi ghee, animal fats, egg yolk etc). But it is not the same as trans fat. Generally accepted norm is an upper limit of 15-20 gm of saturated fat per day, of course you can try reducing it even further.

    The danger lies with partially hydrogenated oil. When any unsaturated oil is not FULLY hydrogenated, there is a real risk of large quantities of trans fat bein present, as an intermediate stage. Should be avoided like a plague. Just for reference, you should not be having more than 2 gm of trans fat on a daily basis (hence much worse than saturated fat). Ideally it should be zero. So, forget about consuming a product where label anyways says it has partially hydrogenated oil, would you risk consuming vanaspati ghee even if the manufacturer says it’s fully hydrogenated? 2 gms per day as an upper limit doean’t give any buffer, and I would not risk it by believeing dalda or unilever on their “fully hydrogenated” claim.

    An alternative is going with minimally processed vegetable oil. They are very high in unsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil and canola oil are generally regarded to be the best in this category. Refined vegetable oils are less preferable, but still better than vanaspati ghee and desi ghee. Just remember that heating any unsaturated oil at high temperature for long period of time can result in formation of trans fat, so stay away from frying and similar cooking methods even when using the healthiest fat.

    Almonds, peanuts and avocado are other sources of healthy unsaturated fats. On peanuts, dont trust peanut butter where the label says it has sugar and refined oil as ingredients. Go for all natural peanut butter, which has 97% or more of peanuts and some salt and maybe some fatty seeds as flaxseed.

    I am surprised by some of the opinions here which as so wrong and dangerous if other ppl follow them.

    • manas mirji

      Nicely written with great patience, thanks a ton for the info.

    • George

      If any vanaspati was fully hydrogenated, it would be hard and only useful as shortening for stiff biscuits and the like. Ghee is about half unsaturated fat so to imitate this the vanaspati needs to be partially hydrogenated – an article in the British Medical Journal states that it is 50% trans fat, which is a huge amount.

  • umesh

    The vanaspati since it is cheap, it is mainly used as the raw compound in soap making. hydrogen gas and nickel catalyst is used in the process of making vanaspati. introducing a hydrogen molecule is dangerous to the health and nickle is also very harmful.Hydrogenation tends to increase the melting point of the vegetable oils (that have very low melting points).
    Basically, all oils have both unsaturated as well as saturated fatty acids. By adding hydrogen, unsaturated fats get converted to saturated fats, decreasing the overall iodine value. Finally, the hydrogenated oil gets solidified at lower temperature.
    The trick is in the understanding of which type of fat is healthier than the other; saturated fats are the fats which will clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart diseases while unsaturated fats are the fats which help keep your body functioning properly.
    very little saturated fat is necessary for the body, approximately 10% and 90% unsaturated fat is required.

    Your health is in your hand.
    You have the power, use it and eat healthy live healthy