Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil/Protein and Wheat Germ Oil: Gluten-Free or Not?

March 20, 2013

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil/Protein and Wheat Germ Oil: Gluten-Free or Not?

March 20, 2013


Is it true that hydrogenated vegetable oil/protein contains gluten? Also, what about wheat germ oil?



Dear Rhonda,

Thanks very much for your question regarding the possibility of hydrogenated vegetable oil/protein and wheat germ oil containing gluten.

Hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is liquid vegetable oil that has had hydrogen added to it to make it less likely to spoil, is not a healthful addition to the diet, but not because it contains gluten (it doesn’t), but rather because the process of hydrogenating vegetable oil creates trans fats, which have been implicated in heart disease, as they raise bad (LDL) cholesterolwhile also lowering good (HDL) cholesterol. Therefore, while I recommend everyone avoid consuming hydrogenated vegetable oil in his or her diet, you don’t need to worry about gluten ingestion if you happen to consume a food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oil.

In regards to hydrogenated vegetable protein, I am assuming you are referring to an additive called “hydrolyzed” vegetable protein (HVP) instead of “hydrogenated” vegetable protein. HVP is used as a flavoring agent in foods and can be derived from corn, soy, wheat or other plant proteins, such as peanuts. In the United States, if HVP is derived from wheat, it must be declared on the label as hydrolyzed wheat protein, but in Canada it may be labeled simply as hydrolyzed plant protein or hydrolyzed vegetable protein. The bottom line here is to always read labels.

Finally, wheat germ oil can be a little confusing regarding gluten content. In the United States, under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), any highly refined oil (oil that has been heavily processed) or ingredients made from highly refined oil, are exempt from allergen labeling, as these refined oils are thought to be safe for the food-allergic/intolerant population to consume. Oils that are not highly refined (i.e. mechanical or cold-pressed oils), may not have all of the protein removed, and may, theoretically, contain residual amounts of gluten and should be avoided by those with celiac disease.

I hope this helps clear up any confusion!

In good health,

EA Stewart, MBA, RD