The consumption of vegetable oils has increased dramatically in the past century. Contrary to what we’ve been told, industrial seed oils such as soybean, canola, and corn oils are not “heart healthy” or otherwise beneficial for our bodies and brains; in fact, plenty of research indicates that these oils are making us sick. In this article, we take you through the industrial seed oil history, the adverse health effects of consuming these oils, and what dietary fats you should eat instead.
Industrial seed oils are highly processed oils extracted from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), cottonseed, and safflower seeds. They were introduced into the American diet in the early 1900s.
The general process used to create industrial seed oils is anything but natural. The oils extracted from soybeans, corn, cottonseed, safflower seeds, and rapeseeds must be refined, bleached, and deodorized before they are suitable for human consumption.
Altogether, industrial seed oil processing creates an energy-dense, nutrient-poor oil that containschemical residues, trans fats, and oxidized byproducts.
Linoleic Acid Could be Increasing Our Risk of Obesity and Related Health Problems
From experiments in mice, increasing the intake of linoleic acid from 1% to 8% may result in brain signals that stimulate greater food consumption and promote body fattening. Greater intake of linoleic acid seems to mask a sense of fullness and to increase the size of fat cells.
When It Comes to Omega-6, quality matters. While industrial seed oils are high in omega-6, there are also plenty of whole, fresh foods that naturally contain omega-6 fatty acids including nuts, poultry, and avocados.
Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) that we humans cannot make ourselves and must, therefore, consume in our diets. They come in two varieties: omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Upon consumption, omega-6 fatty acids give rise to arachidonic acid and potent metabolites that are primarily pro-inflammatory in nature including prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4. Omega-3 fatty acids such as ALA, EPA, and DHA, on the other hand, give rise to anti-inflammatory derivatives.
A delicate balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fattyacids must be maintained in the body to promote optimal health. A high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, combined with low omega-3 intake, leads to an imbalance in pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators producing a state of chronic inflammation that contributes to numerous chronic disease processes.
Factory-processed PUFA oils are created through measures of high heat and extreme pressure exposing the oil to all sorts of oxidative damage, polished off with a good dumping of chemical solvents to get every last bit of that profit-producing oil out of the seeds, or corn, or soy. Some of the chemical (usually hexane) remains, and yet another chemical is added to deodorize the rancid PUFA oil’s stench. In that process, the small amount of omega-3 present in oils like canola, actually transforms into trans fatty acid. And finally, carcinogenic BHT and BTA are added as chemical preservatives, since any naturally-occurring preservative substances, such as antioxidant vitamin E which were once naturally found in the food, have been thoroughly killed off in processing.
Polyunsaturated Fats are very fragile and oxidize very easily. Free-radical forming oxidation of the PUFA happens when it is exposed to heat, light, or oxygen. This is pretty hard to avoid that when you’re cooking with these fragile oils and most restaurants exclusively use these oils not only for cooking, but for extreme high-heat frying.
Excessive inflammation in the body from PUFAs happens because of the presence of free radicals formed in the processing of the industrial oils (like vegetable and canola), which renders them rancid. Free radicals, unattached and needing a place to land, attack cell membranes and red blood cells and cause damage to DNA and RNA strands leading to cellular mutations in the body’s tissues. In skin, it causes wrinkles and premature aging. In blood vessels, they cause the buildup of plaque. In tissues and organs, it can set the stage for tumors to form. You get the idea. Free radicals are bad, bad news, and they’re ever-abundant in industrial PUFA oils.
PUFA’s are at their very worst when they are partially or fully hydrogenated. This chemical process takes place in factories, and it’s used to make PUFA’s solid at room temperature and more “shelf stable”. Trans fat is the artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened to make margarine, vegetable shortening, and often vegan butters and cheeses, etc., as well. Trans fats prevent the synthesis of prostacyclin which is necessary to keep your blood flowing. When your arteries cannot produce prostacyclin, blood clots form, and you may succumb to sudden death.
* olive oil and avocado oil are both high in monounsaturated fats which are moderately stable so they are best used in non-heat or low heat, avoid extreme high-heat cooking. They are also great in salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise, for drizzling, etc.
You can tell if particular oil is chemically processed by simply reading the label.
AVOID all fats, oils, and the products that contain either of them if the following processing terms are listed ANYWHERE on ANY food label:
INSTEAD, look for these safer processing terms on your fat/oil labels:
If optimal health is your goal, then industrial seed oils have no place in your diet. Instead, cook with traditional animal fats, get your omega-6s from whole food sources such as nuts and poultry, and balance things out with omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, shellfish, and fish oil.