Nutrition News: What are PHOs?

For decades, public health advocates have been concerned with the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in processed and manufactured foods. PHOs are industrially-produced oils that add hydrogen to a vegetable oil. Vegetables oils are typically liquid at room temperature but this chemical manipulation of the oil makes it solid at room temperature which lengthens the shelf life of a product.

Most of us are more familiar with the term trans fat. PHO's are the major source of trans fat in the American diet and here’s why you should eliminate them from your diet. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. It also increases our low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (which is the “unhealthy” cholesterol and should be lower) and decrease our high density lipoprotein (HDL) (the “good” cholesterol that should be higher). You must check the ingredient label of a manufactured food product to know if it contains PHOs and therefore trans fat.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows foods to say they contain 0 grams of trans fat if the amount in the serving size on the food label is less than 0.5g. Fortunately, this is all about to change. The implications for public health and food manufacturers will be enormous! The FDA has proposed to remove PHOs from the Generally Recognized As Safe List which would mean that food manufacturers could no longer use these artificially produced oils without filing a petition that proves the absolute need for their usage with FDA.

To see more information about what types of food products typically contain PHOs, including a food label that identifies trans fat, click here.

-Janice Giddens, MS, RDN, LD
Nutrition and Wellness Program Manager