A growing body of research has found that hydrogenated oils (HGs) may be safer than vegetable oils for managing blood sugar, but some are concerned they may be contributing to a new health trend of avoiding sugar.
The FDA has issued an advisory that recommends avoiding HGs in all but the most medically necessary situations.
“In general, there is no evidence to support the recommendation of avoiding HG oils in pediatric patients, especially with regard to blood glucose control,” the FDA said.
“These findings have been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other federal, state, and local health agencies.”
HGs are derived from vegetable oils, but the majority of HGs used in processed foods come from animal products, including beef, pork, and eggs.
The USDA also recommends avoiding hydrogenated coconut oil and hydrogenated soybean oil, as well as palm oil.
In addition, the FDA says HGs may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
“There is no conclusive evidence that HGs contribute to any adverse health effects,” the advisory states.
Some researchers, however, say they don’t see any compelling reason to avoid HGs.
“We don’t think there is any evidence that the amount of hydrogenated [vegetarian] oils that we use is causing a higher risk of type 2 diabetes or any of the other conditions that are associated with it,” said Dr. Mark Boulanger, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the FDA advisory.
Boulangers research also suggests that HG intake may actually decrease blood sugar in people with diabetes, who often have insulin resistance.
“People with diabetes are much more sensitive to the glycemic response of their blood sugar than people who do not have diabetes,” Bouliers said.
Bouchard also noted that many HGs contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure.
“That means that if you’re eating an oil that’s not saturated with polyunsaturates, your blood pressure is probably going to be higher than if you were eating a saturated fat oil,” he said.
While the FDA recommends avoiding all HGs, Boulange said it’s not clear how much more the agency recommends using HGs for diabetes.
“The FDA has not said whether they want to go further in recommending that we just avoid hydrogenated palm oil or HGs and just stick with vegetable oils,” he told Healthline.
Boudreau said that if people want to minimize their glycemic load, they may want to limit the amount they use.
“You can have a high glycemic index, but you can have very low blood sugar,” he explained.
“It’s more like having a low insulin than having a high insulin.
It’s a very important point that people are looking for.”
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is recommending that Americans consume about 30 grams of HgAs per day, but Boudres said that’s still too much for a diet that includes a lot of vegetable oils.
“They need to do some things with their glycaemic load to actually lower it,” he added.
Boussier also said the American Heart Association’s guidance on HGs was vague.
“When you’re talking about a very high glycaemia, they don.
But they don,” he noted.
In fact, Boudrier said that most studies have shown that the HGs can be linked to higher blood pressure and other health risks.
“I think that it’s really important that people don’t just go overboard and avoid it because they think it’s a healthy thing to do,” he stressed.
Boodier noted that there are plenty of healthy ways to eat vegetables.
“Canned foods are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin K, they have fiber, they’re not high in calories, they contain protein,” he stated.
“And you can eat them at a time that you can actually consume a lot more calories.”
Boudries, Bouchar, and Bousse are part of a growing movement among pediatricians, nutritionists, and parents to look at HGs as a potential risk factor for diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
“A lot of these pediatricians who are doing this are looking at glycaemias as a way to treat their kids, and I think that’s a good thing,” Boudry said.
The American Heart Foundation also issued a statement this week that said, “The American Heart Institute strongly recommends that all parents take their children’s diet seriously, especially when it comes to sugars.”
It also says it will be “monitoring the evidence for HGs” in the coming months.