Are All Vegetable Oils
Created Equal? More Fodder for the Debate
Preface: If you haven’t heard from me
that healthy fats are critical to our health,
and that low fat diets do not make for healthy
people, then you must be new here, welcome.
This debate is not on whether fat is important,
rather whether the conventional wisdom
around vegetable oils being healthy is sound.
After searching 5 of the most conservative
and 5 of the most liberal health/nutrition sites
for consensus on what oils are healthy I am
exactly where I started — on the side
the first side — let’s call
it the traditional/conventional people
— Harvard, Mayo, Stanford, American Medical
Association, and Am. Diabetes Association —
we have an across the board stand that all vegetable
oils are healthy because they are polyunsaturated.
the other side — let’s call
them the alternative voices — Dr.
Mercola, Jonny Bowden, Weston Price, Gary Taubes,
Dr. Mark Hyman, and one more, Sally Fallon,
the opposite is purported; that polyunsaturated
or not, the high Omega-6 content of these oils,
and the processing puts them squarely in corner
of not so healthy.
Quick review of saturates and Omegas.
All fats and oils, whether animal or vegetable
are a combination of saturated fatty acids,
monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated
linoleic acid and linolenic acid. Generally
speaking “animal fats are 40% - 60%
saturated fat" according to Sally
Fallon. “Vegetable oils from northern
climates, she continues, contain a preponderance
of polyunsaturated fatty acids but vegetable
oils from the tropics — like coconut oil
— are highly saturated.”
Saturated fats are highly stable
due to science-class-like formulas we don’t
have room for, but it’s a carbon/hydrogen
bonding thing. The same reasons sats
are stable is what makes polyunsaturates unstable.
They have unpaired electrons and this makes
them highly reactive. They tend to become rancid
easily and oxidized when subjected to heat or
oxygen — hence more free radicals roaming
like a gang of trouble-makers in search of something
to destroy. Sadly it’s our health they
find their way to.
Reasons #1 and #2 to question their healthy
On to the Omegas.
The two most common polyunsaturated fats found
in our diets are double unsaturated linoleic
acid, aka Omega-6, and triple unsaturated linolenic
acid, aka Omega-3. The body cannot make
these fats so they are referred to as essential
— as in, you must eat them to
get them on board.
The ideal ratio of 6s to 3s is 1:1 or more
liberally 1:4. Know what the average American
diet ratio is? 25:1. Let me help you with the
math, this is 25 times the healthiest possible
intake of Omega-6s!
Backing up one second, Omega 6-s are
not evil. They do contribute to healthy
levels of LDL cholesterol (important if you
ascribe to keeping that low) and like all fats
improve insulin sensitivity in balance with
At 25 times the body’s preferred intake,
and knowing they are unstable, reactive and
free radical machines, why wouldn’t we
work to rebalance our ratios?
Well, if you follow the CW’s prescription
to use vegetable oils for all of your cooking
and salad needs, you can’t easily bring
that ratio into balance. They are found not
only in refined and processed vegetable oils
such as soybean, corn, canola, sunflower, and
safflower oils but in most baked goods, snacks,
frozen foods, fast food and quick serve restaurant
foods. Especially in light of the move away
from trans-fats in food production we are more
swamped with vegetable oils than ever.
What happens to the body when we ingest
too much Omega 6 and not enough 3? In a word,
inflammation happens, and it has been
linked to pain, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s,
cancers, stroke—need I go on?
I must. The imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6
fatty acids may also contribute to obesity,
depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even
a tendency toward violence. Bringing
the fats into proper proportion may actually
relieve those conditions, according
to Joseph Hibbeln, M.D., a psychiatrist at the
National Institutes of Health, and perhaps the
world's leading authority on the relationship
between fat consumption and mental health.
A question that bugged me surrounding these
commercially produced oils is, once they are
heated, bleached, and denatured so they are
shelf stable, is there any nutrition left?
Turns out, not a lot. According to Udo Erasmus,
anti-oxidants and fat-soluble vitamins,
powerful scavengers of free radicals, are destroyed
by the heat. (Oil-bearing seeds are
heated to 230?F) Other inherent goodies like
phytosterols, lecithin, and chlorophyll are
Again we arrive at the vexing question, “what
do we eat?”
line-up includes these; extra virgin
and regular olive oil, (always buy
these in dark glass bottles, not clear). Coconut
oil, organic butter, ghee, and unrefined flax
oil also make the list. For the rest,
purchase expeller pressed or cold pressed and
keep the oils in the fridge: sesame
oil, macadamia nut and walnut oils, sunflower
and avocado oil. Again these should
be bought in dark not clear glass.
You may have noticed that canola oil
is not on this list of healthy oils.
This Franken-food deserves its own article and
I’m tackling it right now so keep an eye
As always you are encouraged to make your own
decision on whether these highly recommended
foods stay or go in your pantry. If I come to
your house for a VIP day, be prepared to say
goodbye to these disruptive foods in order to
welcome your long term health.