Coconut, Yes or No?

If you haven’t picked up the latest FDA edition on the future of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO), well… you’re in luck. Here are a couple of articles written by 2 separate authors on the subject of PHO and Coconut Oil. The first article will explain the possible FDA ruling to remove PHO from the food chain. The second article talks about the benefits of virgin coconut oil. Confused yet? Many people are, which is why I am writing this article.

Take a look at coconut in several states; whole, milk, water, meat and oil. The issue the Heart Association and the FDA have is regarding how coconut oil is affected when we process it in order to put it in a concentrated solid state. If the oil starts as a solid then is melted into liquid in order to be an ingredient of a product, it will then become solid again in the human body (in particular our arteries), hence clogging our arteries. Coconut in its other forms can be very healthy, particularly coconut water, which is very popular and starting to be noticed.

Future of Trans Fat from Partially Hydrogenated Oils

What is trans fat? Trans fat or trans fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that occur naturally at low concentrations in fats and oils. For instance, it can be found in unrefined vegetable oils at around 0.5%, in refined vegetable oils at below 2.0%, and in animal fats at approximately 3% or so. These will still fall below the current FDA requirements for labeling trans fat, 0.5 grams per serving (a tablespoon (12 to 14 grams) for fats and oils.

Primarily, trans fat occurs when oils undergo the process of hydrogenation, which converts the unsaturated fats into saturated fats. A by-product of this process is the alteration of the unsaturated fats into the trans fat configuration. When the process is stopped before all of the fat has been converted to saturated fat, it is called partial hydrogenation and the product is referred to as “Partially Hydrogenated”. These products have unique and desirable properties, but the trans fat level is quite high and can range from 10 to 60%. It is these Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO) that are the target by the FDA with their current push to control the use of these products. Currently, other fats and oils, including fully hydrogenated oils are not included in this action, since the trans fat level is quite low.

For over seventy years, the PHO products were commonly considered as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the industry have been formulated into numerous food products, from baked goods to snacks and prepared foods, as well as other food ingredients.

Concern over trans fats has risen in the past few years due to the health effects, such as coronary heart disease (CHD) associated with increased trans fats consumed in the typical American diet. This moved the FDA to mandate labeling of trans fats on the nutrition panel of all food products sold within the United States. The FDA’s mandatory labeling of trans fat became effective on January 1, 2006 and caused many food producers and end users of partially hydrogenated oils to change their formulas to non-hydrogenated oils and shortenings.

In continuing with this trend, on November 7, 2013, the FDA announced a preliminary determination of the withdrawal of the GRAS status for PHO, due to the elevated content of trans fatty acids. By removal of the PHO from GRAS, the PHO would need approval for use in food products by the FDA and restrictions and/or limitations of use would be likely. With this announcement, the FDA has solicited a 60-day comment period. If you wish to submit a comment, including scientific data and information to the FDA, please do so to and reference Docket No. FDA-2013-N-1317.

More information can be found with this link to the FDA notice in the Federal Register – Tentative Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils; Request for Comments and for Scientific Data and Information” (Docket No. FDA-2013-N-1317).

This FDA determination is only preliminary and as read ONLY pertains to PHO and does not include other vegetable oils, animal fats nor fully hydrogenated oils. If you are unsure if this applies to your product, consult the product’s ingredients and look for the words “partially hydrogenated”.

The following article is composed by a company called Nutiva, who offers good-for-you coconut product. Scroll down to “Did you know?” to read the article.


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