Hazelnut Spread.
Allison Cherry/iStock/GettyImages

One common tropical oil is hydrogenated palm kernel oil. Many well-known foods contain hydrogenated palm kernel oil including baked goods, baby formula and crackers. Some debate exists about the health merits of hydrogenated palm kernel oil.

Where Does It Come From?

Palm kernel oil comes from the seed or kernel of the oil palm fruit. Its composition is close to that of coconut oil, with roughly 82 percent saturated fat and 18 percent unsaturated fat.

What is Hydrogenation?

Hydrogenation is the process of bonding a hydrogen atom to the double bonds of fatty acid chains. Hydrogenation turns oil from a liquid into a semisolid substance and makes the oil more stable. It also creates trans fats, which can have a negative effect on cholesterol levels.

What Are the Benefits?

According to the American Palm Oil Council, hydrogenated palm kernel oil contains fewer trans fats than other hydrogenated oils. Because palm kernel oil is already high in saturated fats, manufacturers need not hydrogenate it as thoroughly as other oils like soybean oil. This limits the created trans fats.

What Are the Disadvantages?

Some debate exists about the health merits of hydrogenated palm kernel oil. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit their consumption of foods that contain saturated fat or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The AHA also states that partially hydrogenated oils containing saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels. If you are concerned about the effects of partially hydrogenated oils on your diet, it is best to consult a medical professional.