Is this guy right when he says, “coconut oil contains some unsaturated fats, so when you hydrogenate it some of them become saturated fats and some become trans fats. Maybe it’s not so bad since coconut oil is already mostly saturated fat, so there’s not too much to turn into trans fat.” Does the process of saturating polyunsaturated fats create trans fats? Perhaps there’s some heat in the process, so the fat gets converted to trans before it becomes saturated? —RK
Saturated fat has zero trans fat.
Trans fat and cis fat require at least one double bond, and there are no double bonds in saturated fat.
As hydrogenation of unsaturated oils begins, some of the double bonds are reduced to saturated (single) bonds, and some are interconverted between cis and trans form. In a free radical environment, cis and trans fats interconvert, with trans fats being a bit more stable than the cis fats. So oxidizing conditions (heating fat in air for frying foods) and reducing conditions (hydrogenation) can both produce trans fats. But when hydrogenation is taken to completion, there are no double bonds left, and no cis fat and no trans fat. Zero. Nada. Even if there was trans fat to start with, there is no trans fat left at the end. Even if it was 100% trans fat at the beginning, it is zero trans fat at the end.
But what if the hydrogenation is not taken to completion?
Then there are trans fats. This is “partial hydrogenation.” The trans configuration of double bonds is energetically and entropically favored over the cis configuration. Commercially, hydrogenation is rarely taken to completion. So if it doesn’t say “fully hydrogenated,” it probably isn’t. Then again, even if it does, it might not be.
The FDA deliberately corrupted the regulations for labeling requirements on behalf of the food industry so that cholesterol, trans fats and other (supposedly) bad things can say zero on the label when it is not actually zero. As long as the amount can round down to zero based on the serving size, it can say zero on the label. And as long as the preservatives in the food were not added by the labeler, they can say “no preservatives,” which is short for “no preservatives added (by us).” Of course, the ingredients used to make the food under the label are usually fully preserved. So maybe “partially hydrogenated” can be shortened to “hydrogenated” and “fully hydrogenated” does not really mean 100% under FDA labeling regulations.
It’s a game of “out of sight, out of mind.” —Steve