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.
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