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What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?

author image Sage Kalmus
Based in Maine, Sage Kalmus has written extensively on fitness, nutrition, alternative health, self-improvement and green living for various websites. He also authored the metaphysical fiction book, "Free Will Flux." Kalmus holds a Bachelor of Science from Boston University's College of Communication and is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor with special training in Touch-For-Health Kinesiology.
What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?
Many prepared foods, like fast food, contain mono- and diglycerides. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Monoglycerides and diglycerides are food additives commonly used to combine ingredients containing fats with those containing water, two types of ingredients that don't ordinarily combine well. Food manufacturers typically use them to extend a product's shelf life. Made in part of fatty acids, they are similar to triglycerides, the predominant fat in food according to the Harvard School of Public Health, except they are classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids.

Trans Fats

What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?
Trand fats from animal, veegetable, or man-made sources can increase the risk for numerous diseases. Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

According to registered dietitian Mary Beth Sodus of the University of Maryland Medial Center, trans fats have been associated with increased risk of numerous diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. They promote inflammation and obesity; raise LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels; and lower HDL, or good, cholesterol levels. Made up in part of fatty acids, mono- and diglycerides may contain trans fats, either when manufactured in a lab or, if they come from an animal or vegetable source, when exposed to heat for processing into packaged and prepared foods.

FDA Labeling

What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?
Make sure to read food labels. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring that all food manufacturers list a food's trans fat content on the label. This law applies to lipids, like triglycerides, but not to emulsifiers like mono- and diglycerides. Therefore, even though mono- and diglycerides may contain trans-fatty acids, they do not fall under these labeling requirements. This means a food may be labeled as possessing "0% trans fat" yet still contain trans-fatty acids from mono- and diglycerides.

Other Additives

What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?
Hardened palm oil forms trans fats and is used in the process of manufacturing mono- and diglycerides. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Many different chemicals may be used in the process of manufacturing mono- and diglycerides that are still present in the final product. Among the most prevalent of these is hardened palm oil, or palm oil exposed to hydrogen and high temperatures, a process that forms trans fats. Other possible compounds added in the making of mono- and diglycerides include nickel, tartaric acid, synthetic lactic acid, ricinus fatty acids and sodium hydroxide, each of which may pose health risks of its own. Unfortunately, insufficient study has been done on the potential health dangers of these compounds.

Foods Containing Mono- and Diglycerides

What Is Bad About Mono- & Diglycerides?
The least healthy foods tend to contain mono- and diglycerides. Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Mono- and diglycerides are typically found in packaged and prepared foods. What's more, the packaged and prepared foods that commonly contain mono- and diglycerides are some of the least healthy food products on the market, including baked goods, soft drinks, candy, gum, whipped cream, ice cream, margarine and shortening.

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