When it comes to healthy edible oils, mainstream nutritionists have been indoctrinated into a world of misinformation. Most so-called healthy vegetable oils that claim to be healthy may actually increase the risk of heart disease, contrary to the cholesterol-lowering claims on food labels. An analysis in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) is confirming what many health specialists have been stating for decades–the healthiest oils are not vegetable based.
Mainstream Myths Not Facts
The primary edible oils to avoid include canola, soy, safflower, sunflower, palm, corn, and flaxseed oil (for men). Cottonseed is another very harmful oil, but rarely used now due to its poor reputation. And for those who have jumped on the rice bran oil bandwagon, please review John Summerly’s excellent report on why this oil should also be avoided.
Replacing saturated animal fats with polyunsaturated vegetable oils has became common practice because they were found to reduce serum cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease. However, experts have been speaking out stating that almost four decades of advice to cut back on saturated fats found in foods has paradoxically increased our cardiovascular risks.
Just last year, world renown heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell, made headlines when he stated the facts on the actual causes of heart disease. “As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries,today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact,” he was quoted in a statement.
Experts such as Dr. Ron Rosedale have been exposing the facts on cholesterol myths for years. Perhaps one of the biggest health myths propagated in western culture and certainly in the United States, is the correlation between elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Unfortunately, despite dozens of studies, cholesterol has not been shown to actually cause CVD. To the contrary, cholesterol is vital to our survival, and trying to artificially lower it can have detrimental effects, particularly as we age. What we have found after years of being told the opposite, is that there is no such thing as bad cholesterol.
Rethinking The Disease Reduction Claims of Vegetable Oils
In 2009, Health Canada’s Food Directorate, after reviewing published evidence, approved a request from the food industry to apply a heart disease risk reduction claim on vegetable oils and foods containing these oils. The label suggests “a reduced risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels.”
“Careful evaluation of recent evidence, however, suggests that allowing a health claim for vegetable oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but relatively poor in omega-3 alpha linolenic acid may not be warranted,” write Drs. Richard Bazinet, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto and Michael Chu, Lawson Health Research Institute and Division of Cardiac Surgery, Western University, London, Ontario.
Sunflower oil contains large amounts of omega 6 polyunsaturates, so if you use sunflower oil regularly, you need to be sure you’re getting enough omega 3s in your diet from other sources to balance it out. Re-using the oil more than a few times for deep-frying could cause the formation of harmful trans fats.
Safflower oil, which is rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but contain almost no omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, is not associated with beneficial effects on heart health according to recent evidence. The reasons to avoid this oil are also similar to sunflower as the polyunsaturates are largely omega 6 based. These omega-6 oils are also highly susceptible to heat damage because of their double bonds.
The authors cite a study published earlier this year in February 2013: “…in which the intervention group replaced saturated fat with sources of safflower oil or safflower oil margarine (rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but low in omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid). They found that the intervention group had serum cholesterol levels that were significantly decreased (by about 8%-13%) relative to baseline and the control group, which is consistent with the health claim.” However, rates of death from all causes of cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease significantly increased in the treatment group. The other problem is there is no evidence that a decrease in cholesterol levels decrease mortality rates which lend credence to a flawed labeling of LDL cholesterol as “bad”.
Flaxseed oil is also made up primarily of monounsaturated fats but with its own unique properties, flaxseed oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and lignan. However, although flaxseed oil seems to be safe for women, there isn’t any data showing that it is safe for men. In October 2004, Nutrition Journal published an analysis of nutrition and cancer. One meta-analysis included in that publication reviewed nine studies that revealed an association between flaxseed oil intake or high blood levels of alpha-linolenic acid and increased risk of prostate cancer. The author concluded that the lignans in flaxseed are a major component of its anti-cancer effects and that the lack of lignans in most brands of flaxseed oil may explain why flaxseed oil is not beneficial.
Omega-6 linoleic acid is found in corn and safflower oils as well as foods such as mayonnaise, margarine, chips and nuts. Canola and soybean oils, which contain both linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, are the most common forms of oil in the Canadian diet. “…it is unclear whether oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but low in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid also reduce this risk. We suggest that the health claim be modified such that foods rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but poor in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid be excluded,” conclude the authors.
The Toxicity of Canola Oil
After the public health scare (or fear mongering) in the 1970s over animal fats, sales of vegetable oils of all types increased. It was the established wisdom that those oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids were especially beneficial. The obsession with polyunsaturated versus saturated fats led researchers and nutritionists to overlook some of the other features of vegetable oils that we now know are crucial to health, including:
- Susceptibility to rancidity;
- Ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and its relevance in inflammatory diseases and immune system function;
- Possible presence of irritating or toxic compounds in particular plant oils.
Although Chinese and Indian peoples have long used rapeseed oil in cooking, it was not refined and processed to the extent of modern commercial methods, and it was never considered to be a high quality oil for human consumption.
Canola oil contains a long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which is especially irritating to mucous membranes; canola oil consumption has been correlated with development of fibrotic lesions of the heart, CNS degenerative disorders, lung cancer, and prostate cancer, anemia, and constipation.
The long-chain fatty acids found in canola have been found to destroy the sphingomyelin surrounding nerve cells in the brain, in some cases leading to a degenerative brain condition remarkably similar to mad-cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy); in advanced cases the brain tissue develops a Swiss-cheese-like appearance, full of holes. Illnesses and conditions that have been associated with canola oil consumption include loss of vision (retinal capillaries are very sensitive and easily damaged), and a wide range of neurological disorders.
Today, even those who are moderately educated about nutrition understand that Canola (also known as rapeseed) is not a health food and it could not possibly ever be classified as organic due to its breeding and origin.
The toxic properties of the rape plant are cyanide-containing compounds called isothiocyanates. Wild animals will not eat the plant and many farmers report that their animals will not eat feed contaminated with canola.
In various studies, experimental rats fed canola oil developed fatty degeneration of the heart, kidney, adrenals, and thyroid gland. On withdrawing the canola oil from their diets, the deposits dissolved but scar tissue remained on all vital organs.
Genetically modified Canola was derived in the 70s from cross-breeding of multiple lines of the rape plant to produce a much lower percentage of erucic acid, a known food borne toxin. Thus, Canola is GMO by design and organic canola is a misnomer. It’s another industry tactic to make consumers believe something is organic in nature which has never been by origin.
In the last 20 years we have seen a dramatic increase in muscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Soy and Canola oils are players in the outbreak of these disease conditions. So are the organophosphates–insecticides such as malthion– used in food production in the name of efficiency.
Canola contains fats that experts say should not be exposed to heat, yet it is usually exposed to high temperatures, and then deodorized and bleached. It has been shown to deplete vitamin E levels in mammals. The plant itself (rapeseed) is an insect repellent and used in industrial manufacturing. Soybean oil has been linked to breast cancer and its high levels of Omega-6s linked to inflammatory diseases and its omega-3s converted into the undesirable trans form. Even “lightly refined” and “expeller pressed oils can be exposed to deodorizing, which may raise the oil temperature to a sizzling 450 deg F. When metabolized in the body, it produces the latex-like substance that causes the agglutination of red blood cells.
Composition of Palm Oil And Its Health Effects
The palm oil and palm kernel oil are high in saturated fatty acids, about 50% and 80% respectively and esterified with glycerol. The Oil palm gives its name to the saturated fatty acid palmitic acid of which it contains 44% by composition. According to the World Health Organization, evidence is “convincing” that consumption of palmitic acid increases risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, placing it in the same evidence category as trans fatty acids.
According to a report in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, rats fed a diet of 20% palmitic acid and 80% carbohydrate for extended periods showed alterations in central nervous system (CNS) control of insulin secretion, and suppression of the body’s natural appetite-suppressing signals from leptin and insulin (the key hormones involved in weight regulation). The results found that many of the deleterious effects of high-fat diets, specifically those enriched with palmitic acid, are CNS mediated resulting in reduced insulin activity. CNS resistance to leptin and insulin compromises the ability of both hormones to regulate food intake and body weight in the presence of diets high in saturated fat/palmitic acid, subsequently resulting in obesity.
Two meta-analysis have examined the effect of palmitic acid on serum cholesterol. In a 1997 study based on 134 clinical studies, British researchers concluded that, compared to carbohydrates, palmitic acid raises blood cholesterol levels (Clarke et al. 1997). In 2003, Dutch scientists conducted a meta-analysis of 35 clinical studies (Mensink et l. 2003) and examined what many experts consider the best indicator of heart-disease risk: the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol Institute of Medicine, National Academies 2002). Palmitic acid increased the total: HDL cholesterol ratio more than other saturated fatty acids, including lauric acid and myristic acid, which are abundant in palm kernel oil. Palm oil increases the total: HDL cholesterol ratio more than the average U.S. or British dietary fat (Jensen et al. 1999; Keys et al. 1957). That finding indicates that, in terms of blood cholesterol, palm oil is somewhat more harmful than the average U.S. dietary fat and much more harmful than such liquid oils as olive, soy, and canola.
In a study published in a 1999 issue of “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition,” three Nigerian biochemistry researchers extol some of the nutrients found in fresh palm oil, but point out that the oil in an oxidized state can threaten physiological and biochemical functions of the body. They acknowledge that manufacturers of processed foods oxidize palm oil in their products for a variety of culinary purposes, meaning that much of the palm oil consumers eat is in an oxidized state. The dangers of oxidized palm oil include organotoxicity of the heart, kidney, liver and lungs, as well as reproductive toxicity, the researchers claim. Additionally, they note, oxidized palm oil can cause an increase in free fatty acids, phospholipids and cerebrosides.
Palm oil can definitely lead to an expanded waistline according to the National Institutes of Health. It also appears to increase the risk of bleeding and should not be used for the two weeks prior to any surgery.
The problem with palm oil is not so much its saturated fat content because we know coconut oil has plenty of that and it’s one of the healthiest oils on Earth. However, coconut oil does not suppress the body’s natural appetite-suppressing signals from leptin and insulin. It is the triglyceride structure in palm oil which creates potentially negative health effects in contrast to coconut oil whose structure actually promotes health. Coconut oil also contains much higher amounts of myristic, lauric, and capric acid which are relatively absent in palm oil. Although coconut oil also contains palmitic acid, the ratio is much lower (about 9 times lower) and coconut oil’s saturated fat profile is much more balanced than palm oil. The health promoting effects of coconut oil exceed palm oil’s by a very large margin.
Soy Oil Is Sufficiently Toxic To Merit Extreme Caution Or Avoid It Completely
This oil is a high poly fat. Your poly fat intake should be around 33% of your total fat intake. A high poly percentage is, an aid to tumors and cancer and should be carefully observed. Up to 80% of the oil consumed in the U.S. today comes from soybeans. Soybean oil is commonly hydrogenated and used in many processed foods.
If you still trust ANYTHING about soy, you likely have not completed sufficient research to make a fully informed decision. If you were to carefully review the thousands of studies published on soy, you would likely reach the same conclusions–the risks of consuming unfermented soy products FAR outweigh any possible benefits.
Soy is very problematic crop. Non-organic sources of soy in many agricultural practices are being passed off as organic. In 2011, the USDA uncovered a plot to import fraudulent organic certificates produced by an uncertified supplier in China. The Chinese firm used the counterfeit certificate to represent non-organic crops, including soybeans, millet and buckwheat, as certified organic.
Any ingredient listed as soybean or soy on any product ingredient list has a 93% chance of being GMO if it is not listed as organic.
These types of things are happening every year and only a fraction are being discovered. Even domestically sourced organic soybean crops are now being investigated for having GMO origins. You cannot trust the soy conglomerates. The industry has dumped millions into persuading people that soy is a health food when it’s really a junk food, especially modern soy in all its processing. There are very few types of soy that are healthy for the body and all go through a very slow stringent fermentation processes, none of which you will ever obtain in a processed food spread or milk.
The bottom line when it comes to soy is that we are all participating in what Daniel M. Sheehan, former senior toxicologist with the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, has called a “large, uncontrolled and basically unmonitored human experiment.”
THE TWO BEST OVERALL EDIBLE OILS
A low smoke point makes olive oil a a poor choice for light frying, and its heavy taste makes it undesirable in many baked goods, but as far as consuming it in its raw, unadulterated form, it is the best salad oil by far. Beware of many retail olive oils which have been adulterted to boost profits. For example, some producers have been caught adulterating the oil they label as “extra virgin” with much cheaper hazelnut, soy, or sunflower seed oil, among others, as well as mislabeling its country of origin. The highest antioxidant olive oil worthy of praise is Ice-Pressed since the colder the processing, the higher the immune boosting properties. Even though more attention is usually given to their delicious oil than the whole food itself, there are plenty of reasons you should be eating olives, and the raw oil is a great way to absorb the superb benefits of this fruit.
The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing properties. 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is lauric acid which is rarely found in nature. Lauric acid is a powerful virus and gram-negative bacteria destroyer, and coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth!
Did you know that multiple studies on Pacific Island populations who get 30-60% of their total caloric intact from fully saturated coconut oil have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease?
Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also called medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs. These types of fatty acids produce a whole host of health benefits. It’s nature’s richest source of these healthy MCFAs.
It also does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream. It acts on your body like a carbohydrate, without any of the debilitating insulin-related effects associated with long-term high carbohydrate consumption!
Coconut oil is exceptionally helpful for pregnant women, nursing moms, the elderly, those concerned about digestive health, athletes (even weekend warriors), and those of you who just want to enhance your overall health.
Honorable mentions of edible oils worthy of discussion include walnut, avocado and hemp oils which I will elaborate on further in future reports.
About the Author
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.
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