Monoglycerides & Diglycerides

Monoglycerides & Diglycerides

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What Are Monoglycerides and Diglycerides?

Monoglycerides and diglycerides aka “mono- and diglycerides of fatty acid” are food additives that are emulsifiers, meaning that they help keep oil and water from separating. They are also used to extend the shelf life of products. You could technically say that mono- and diglycerides are the byproduct of processing oil (in particular, seed oils). And they contain trans fat!

How Are they Harmful?

Mono- and diglycerides contain trans fat, which promotes inflammation in the body and has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity.

In 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration finally recognized the dangers of trans fat and began requiring manufacturers to list trans fat on food labels. But this law applies to lipids NOT to emulsifiers like mono- and diglycerides. So, a food may be labeled as containing “0% trans fat,” yet still contain trans-fatty acids from mono- and diglycerides. 

In June 2018, the FDA banned trans fat, but because mono- and diglycerides are classified as emulsifiers and not lipids, the FDA ban doesn’t apply to them! In fact, they can be used in foods without any limitations!


Products with Monoglycerides & Diglycerides and Substitutes

A 2017 study noted that around 70 percent of emulsifiers used in food products in the US are monoglycerides and diglycerides. They’re everywhere! You can typically find mono- and diglycerides in most processed and packaged foods. They are found in tons of products from bread to margarine, frozen dinners to candy, baby formula to soft drinks.

Potential Health Impacts and Studies

Data continues to show the harmful effects of trans fat. Trans fat can distort cell membranes, elevate the risk of coronary heart disease, have adverse effects on the brain and nervous system, and diminish mental performance. Numerous studies show that trans fat poses severe effects on our health like cardiovascular problems, insulin resistance, infertility in women, compromised fetal development, and cognitive decline. The list goes on. 

While the FDA says that small amounts of trans fat isn’t harmful, the truth is, many people aren’t just consuming a small amount. According to this study, the presence of small amounts of trans fat in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils/food products will likely cause many Americans to exceed their recommended maximum.