March 7 2021
Health experts have pointed to several culprits in our diets as possible explanations for the rapidly increasing rates of chronic disease in industrialized countries, including sugar, saturated fats, and industrial seed oils.
Yet one commonly eaten food found in the diets of millions has received surprisingly little attention: industrial seed oils.
Contrary to what we have been told, industrial seed oils such as soy, canola, and corn oils are not " heart healthy " or beneficial to our bodies and brains; in fact, extensive research indicates that these oils are making us sick.
Read on to learn about the history of the industrial seed oil industry, the adverse health effects of consuming these oils, and what dietary fats you should consume as replacements.
What are industrial seed oils?
Unlike traditional fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, and lard, industrial seed oils are a very recent addition to the human diet.
In fact, industrial seed oils, highly processed oils extracted from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), cottonseed, and safflower seeds, were introduced into the American diet. just at the beginning of the 20th century.
So how did these oils come to occupy such an influential place not only in the standard American diet but in "westernized" diets around the world? The story is really strange.
In the 1870s, in Cincinnati, United States, two soap makers, William Procter and James Gamble, decided to start businesses together. While soap had historically been made from processed pork fat, Procter and Gamble were an innovative couple and decided to create a new type of soap from vegetable oils.
Around the same time, oil was discovered in Pennsylvania; I quickly replaced cottonseed oil, which had long been used for lighting, as a fuel source.
Cottonseed oil was simply put into the “toxic waste” category until the entrepreneurs Procter & Gamble realized that all that unwanted cottonseed oil could be used to make soap.
But there was another advantage that appealed to its commercial sensitivity: The oil could be chemically modified through a process called "hydrogenation" to turn it into a solid cooking fat that resembled lard.
This is how an oil previously classified as “toxic waste” became an integral part of the American diet when Crisco was introduced to the market in the early 1900s.
Soon, other vegetable oils were produced. Soybeans were introduced to the United States in the 1930s, and by the 1950s, it had become the most popular vegetable oil in the country. Canola, corn, and safflower oils appeared soon after.
The low cost of these cooking oils, combined with strategic marketing by oil manufacturers, made them very popular in American kitchens even though their use was unprecedented in human history.
Our modern lifestyle is wreaking havoc on our health. Whether it's our stress levels, our lack of sleep and movement, or nutrient-poor diets, many of us live in a way that negatively affects our health.
The industrial revolution brought us incredible efficiencies in production, but that has had a negative impact on the overall quality of much of the food available for consumption. The price we pay for consuming poor-quality foods, including industrial seed oils, is inflammation and the incidence of chronic disease.
Many dietary factors can contribute to inflammation. These include the consumption of industrial seed oils, but also the consumption of gluten and excess refined sugar.
The effect of these foods on our health can range from having less energy and more brain fog to the development of debilitating chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and greater complications in managing diabetes.
How are industrial seed oils made?
The general process used to create industrial seed oils is anything but natural. Oils extracted from soybeans, corn, cottonseed, safflower seeds, and rapeseed must be refined, bleached, and deodorized before they are fit for human consumption.
Together, industrial seed oil processing creates an energy-dense, nutrient-poor oil that contains chemical residues, trans fats, and oxidized by-products.
From toxic waste to ' good for the heart ': the story of seed oils
How did industrial seed oils go from being classified as “toxic waste” to enjoying the title of “heart healthy” fats? The story involves a scandalous combination of donations to medical organizations, dubious scientific research, and unsubstantiated marketing claims.
In the late 1940s, a small group of cardiologists who were members of the relatively new American Heart Association (AHA) received a $ 1.5 million donation from Procter & Gamble.
Thanks to this generous cash transfer from the creators of Crisco, the AHA now had sufficient funds to grow its national profile as a physician organization dedicated to heart health.
He was also quick to endorse industrial seed oils, more nicely referred to as "vegetable oils," as a healthier alternative to traditional animal fats.
Around the same time, an ambitious physiologist and researcher named Ancel Keys presented his diet and lipid hypothesis, in which he presented data that seemed to suggest a link between saturated fat and cholesterol intake and heart disease.
Since animal fats are a rich source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, they quickly became the object of ridicule for him.
Citing animal fats as "unhealthy," Keys recommended consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which preliminary research had associated with lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Keys's conclusions were in tune with the motives of the industrial seed oil industry: to get people to consume more seed oils! Soon margarine that was advertised as "heart healthy" (a solid form of vegetable oil) and other seed oils became common, and traditional, healthy fats were forgotten.
While Keys's lipid hypothesis is now known to be based on flawed research, his ideas nonetheless permeated the medical community.
Soon, many medical organizations, including the National Cholesterol Education Program and the National Institutes of Health, had joined the movement against animal fat.
He then echoed the AHA's advice that people should avoid animal fat and instead consume polyunsaturated vegetable oils like Crisco and other butters, soybean oil, and corn oil.
This confluence of mutual events and interests led to the radical substitution of natural dietary fats like lard and butter with unsaturated industrial seed oils, indelibly changing the makeup of the American (and eventually global) food landscape.
Only in recent years has the validity of health claims associated with industrial seed oils been seriously questioned. A 2014 meta-analysis found no overall health benefit from reducing saturated fat or increasing PUFA levels in vegetable oils.
Also, the evidence does not support current dietary guidelines that urge people to replace saturated fats with vegetable oils.
6 reasons why industrial seed oils are terrible for your health
There are six main problems with industrial seed oils:
1. They are an evolutionary mismatch
Evolutionary mismatch, which is a mismatch between our genes and the modern environment, is the main driver of chronic disease today.
There are few areas where evolutionary mismatch is more evident than in the standard Western diet; The high amounts of refined carbohydrates and calories in this diet go against our ancestral biology, causing us to become overweight and sick.
Industrial seed oils, like refined sugar and excess calories, also represent an evolutionary mismatch. Until the 1900s, humans did not consume industrial seed oils.
From 1970 to 2000, the average consumption of one of the industrial seed oils, soybean oil, skyrocketed from just 2 kilos per person per year to an incredible 12 kilos per person per year!
Currently, linoleic acid, the primary fatty acid in industrial seed oils, accounts for 8 percent of our total calorie intake; in our hunter-gatherer ancestors, it accounted for only 1 to 3 percent of total calories.
Researchers familiar with the subject of evolutionary mismatch claim that our bodies are simply not designed to handle such a massive consumption of linoleic acid. As a result, our high levels of industrial seed oil consumption are causing our health to suffer.
2. They have an unbalanced ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3
Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that humans cannot produce ourselves and therefore must be consumed through 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 like ALA, EPA and DHA, on the other hand, give rise to anti-inflammatory derivatives.
A delicate balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids must be maintained in the body to promote optimal health. The ancestral ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1 to 1. Westernized diets, however, greatly exceed this balance, with omega-6 to omega-3 ratios in the 10 to 1 range and 20 to 1.
A high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, combined with a low intake of omega-3, leads to an imbalance in pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators. This imbalance produces a state of chronic inflammation that contributes to numerous chronic disease processes.
Industrial seed oils are perhaps the most significant contributor to the omega-6-to-omega-3 ratio imbalance characteristic of Westernized diets, and therefore play an important role in chronic inflammatory diseases.
3. Industrial seed oils are highly unstable
The polyunsaturated fatty acids in industrial seed oils are highly unstable and readily oxidize when exposed to heat, light, and chemical inputs. When industrial seed oils are exposed to these factors, two harmful substances are created: trans fats and lipid peroxides.
Trans fats are well known for their role in the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; in fact, for every 2 percent increase in calories from trans-fat, your risk of heart disease nearly doubles!
Lipid peroxides, on the other hand, are toxic by-products that damage DNA, proteins, and membrane lipids throughout the body. The accumulation of lipid peroxides in the body promotes aging and the development of chronic diseases.
4. They are full of additives
Because the fatty acids in industrial seed oils are so unstable, synthetic antioxidants are added in an attempt to prevent oxidation and rancidity. Unfortunately, these synthetic antioxidants have their own problems.
The synthetic antioxidants BHA, BHT and TBHQ have endocrine, carcinogenic and immune disrupting effects. Furthermore, TBHQ has been found to increase the IgE (immunoglobulin E) response to food allergens, triggering a release of antibodies, and therefore may promote the development of food allergies.
5. Industrial seed oils come from genetically modified plants
In addition to being poor in nutrients and full of nasty chemicals and toxic by-products, the vast majority of industrial seed oils are derived from genetically modified plants.
In fact, the plants used to produce industrial seed oils comprise the major genetically modified crops: corn, soybeans, cotton, and rapeseed. In the United States, 88 percent of corn, 93 percent of soybeans, 94 percent of cotton, and 93 percent of rapeseed crops are genetically modified.
Few studies have been done on the long-term safety of consuming genetically modified foods, giving us another reason to avoid consuming industrial seed oils.
6. They are often repeatedly heated (and are extremely toxic)
As if industrial seed oils weren't bad enough for our health, restaurants and home cooks are often engaged in a practice that further increases their harmful effects: they repeatedly heat industrial seed oils.
While the habit of reusing industrial seed oils over and over again (usually in large fryers, in the case of restaurants) cuts costs, it results in an oil that is chock-full of toxic by-products.
Repeated heating of industrial seed oils depletes vitamin E, a natural antioxidant, while inducing the formation of free radicals that cause oxidative stress and damage DNA, proteins, and lipids throughout the body.
These harmful effects explain why industrial seed oils that are repeatedly heated are associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and intestinal and liver damage.
Ways “healthy” seed oils are making us sick
Contrary to what many health organizations have been telling us for years, industrial seed oils are not healthy foods. What's more, its use is associated with a variety of health problems.
Consuming industrial seed oils can increase your risk of asthma. A high intake of omega-6 fatty acids, such as those present in industrial seed oils, in relation to omega-3 fatty acids increases the pro-inflammatory mediators associated with asthma.
Industrial seed oils can promote autoimmunity by increasing the body's omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and increasing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Cognition and Mental Health
Industrial seed oils are particularly harmful to the brain. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids predisposes people to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and dementia.
Canola oil consumption is linked to the impairment of memory and learning ability that occurs in Alzheimer's disease.
Trans fats, which end up accidentally in industrial seed oils, as a consequence of chemical and thermal processing, and intentionally, during the hydrogenation process, are associated with an increased risk of dementia and, interestingly, of aggression.
Diabetes and Obesity
Are industrial seed oils making us obese and diabetic? Science certainly seems to suggest this.
Research in mice indicates that consuming high levels of linoleic acid, the primary fatty acid in industrial seed oils, disrupts neurotransmitter signaling, ultimately increasing food intake and fat mass.
In mice, a diet rich in soybean oil induces obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Animal research also suggests that canola oil can cause insulin resistance.
Human studies also point to the effects of industrial seed oils on diabetes and obesity, especially in children.
A maternal diet high in omega-6 compared to omega-3 is associated with an increased risk of obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes in children. A children's diet with a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can also lead to insulin resistance, prediabetes, and obesity in adulthood.
Contrary to what the AHA has been telling us for the past 100 years, industrial seed oils are not good for our hearts. In fact, the oxidized fatty acids in industrial seed oils appear to play a fundamental role in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Recently researchers have come up with a theory called the " oxidized linoleic acid theory of coronary heart disease " that links the consumption of industrial seed oils rich in linoleic acid with cardiovascular disease. The theory is like this:
Industrial seed oils also contribute to cardiovascular disease by increasing the ratio of omega-6-to-omega-3. A high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is an established risk factor for cardiovascular disease because excess omega-6 has pro-inflammatory and prothrombotic effects on the vascular system.
Finally, another emerging theory suggests that canola and soybean oils may contribute to cardiovascular disease by inhibiting processes that involve vitamin K2, which is essential for heart health.
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