Americans have considered vegetable oils to be heart healthy for the past 50 years. The diet heart hypothesis put forward by Ancel Keys in the 1950s and apparently confirmed by his Seven Country Study implied that saturated fat in the diet was responsible for the rise in arteriosclerotic heart disease after World War II.
Saturated fats like butter, lard, and red meat have been found to increase cholesterol, while vegetable oils, which contain polyunsaturated fats, lower cholesterol. The theory suggested that cholesterol, a fatty, waxy substance, built up in the walls of our arteries in response to excessive consumption of saturated fat. This process eventually clogs the artery and leads to decreased blood flow with a heart attack or stroke, depending on the location of the artery in the heart or brain.
The building blocks of fats and oils are called fatty acids. All food fats, whether solid or liquid, are triglycerides, in which three fatty acids are bound to glycerine, a sugar alcohol, and arranged like the letter E. The additives that you often see on the food ingredient lists of mono- and diglycerides are just triglyceride fats with one or two arms missing.
Fatty acids come in three types of saturation – saturated, unsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Saturation refers to the amount of hydrogen on a fatty acid. When all places are filled with hydrogen, the fatty acid is completely saturated and solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fatty acids lack some hydrogen and are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid in olive oil are only missing one hydrogen and are liquid at room temperature, but solidify in the refrigerator.
On the other hand, a highly polyunsaturated fat – like safflower oil, in which more than 75 percent of its fatty acids are missing two hydrogen atoms – remains liquid even in the refrigerator. This shows you that olive oil has more saturated fat than safflower oil (13 percent versus 6 percent), but both are low compared to butter or beef fat, which are 50 percent saturated fat.
Vegetable oils like corn or soybean oil have been used in margarines as a cheaper alternative to butter or lard for more than 100 years, especially during wartime. However, in the good times, butter and lard were preferred because of their better taste, taste and flavor.
However, when the medical world, and the American Heart Association in particular, began to endorse vegetable oils as a path to better health, it became a challenge for the food industry. What better way to use up the huge excess crops from our monocultures of corn, soy, and canola? An added bonus was that these oils were cheaper than butter, lard, or beef suet. Beef suet was used by McDonald’s until it was forced to switch to “heart-healthy rapeseed oil”.
So what could be wrong with the vegetable oils? First, not all are bad, and some – like olive oil and fish oil – are actually good for you. But the industry has dished out a potpourri of oils that are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Let’s look at canola oil first, as it was approved by the USDA in 2006 to make the following health claim: “There is limited and inconclusive evidence that consuming 1.5 tablespoons or 19 grams of canola oil daily reduces the risk Coronary artery disease may decrease because of its unsaturated fat content. ”
Rapeseed is obtained from a variety of the rapeseed plant that contains little erucic acid. Canola oil, which was sold for human consumption in 1956, was a failure. This was due to its greenish color and bad taste. In addition, it contained a high amount of erucic acid, which is toxic to the heart muscle. Two chemists at the University of Manitoba, Canada, completely revised the oil. Its name is derived from Can for Canada and ola for oil. The main difference to the original rapeseed oil was its much lower erucic acid content of less than 2 percent.
What triggered the USDA-approved heart health claim? In its unprocessed form, canola oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, as well as PUFAs or PolyUnSaturatedFats, both of which are good for heart health. But unfortunately there is the problem of quoting Shakespeare. When heated to high temperatures, such as frying – especially in restaurants and fast food stores – these unsaturated fats are oxidized and converted into aldehydes like formaldehyde – yes, the stuff corpses can be embalmed with! These aldehydes are toxic to cells and damage DNA and RNA. Early experiments and studies such as the LA Veterans’ Study showed increased cancer deaths from vegetable oils high in PUFA. In addition, these oils are often added to processed foods. When people consume large amounts of processed foods and restaurant foods that contain canola oil, they can also ingest larger amounts of the erucic acid.
There are several problems associated with canola oil: Most of it is hydrogenated oil as it requires refining with bleaching and degumming solvents. It also needs to be deodorized because of its strong odor. All of this happens under high heat, which destroys most of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids right there and converts them to trans fats. Those that we have learned are particularly harmful to the heart because of their pro-inflammatory effects. Experiments on mice bred to be prone to developing Alzheimer’s dementia show that when fed a diet fortified with canola oil for several weeks, they have memory problems and their brains have increased amyloid plaque buildup As they also occur in human brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia of the type. And last but not least, it’s 90 percent genetically engineered or genetically engineered and Roundup capable, which means the plants can withstand heavy spraying with Roundup or Glyphosite, an insecticide and herbicide.
Soy and corn oils, the other common vegetable oils, don’t do much better. They are also mostly GMOs and are processed under high heat and extracted with petroleum derivatives such as hexane. They are also Roundup capable and are cultivated to withstand spraying with herbicides and pesticides. These oils are widely used as additives in frying and food processing, including salad dressings, mayonnaise, pastries, etc. Fast foods use them to make french fries. When the oils are heated to the required high temperatures, oxidative damage occurs and the formation of toxic aldehydes.
So which oils are safe to use? Olive oil has proven itself over the centuries, most recently in the PrediMed study in Spain, in which the incidence of undesirable coronary events was reduced by 30 percent when the subjects consumed half a liter of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil per week for two years. Cholesterol lowering drugs like statins don’t work any better! For frying that requires a higher focus, consider avocado oil, which is monounsaturated similar to olive oil but can withstand heating to 500 degrees. In addition, it is tasteless. You can say olive and avocado oils are expensive, which I counter: “Would you rather hand over $ 50 or more to a drug company every month to pay for your statin drug?”
One final piece of advice: be proactive in choosing healthy fats and oils. The big agencies like the FDA, the USDA or even the AHA or the American Heart Association don’t help. The AHA is even paid by food companies to put the “Heart Healthy” sign on the oil bottle. Rapeseed oil as an example. Learn to pause and read labels for content. They will tell you which oil or oils to use. Sometimes there can be several vegetable oils in one item, such as soybean oil, canola and sunflower. Labels can be tricky, like olive oil mayonnaise. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that half of the oil comes from soybean oil. Avoid fried foods when eating in restaurants or fast food restaurants. All of these places always use the cheap oils, canola, soy and corn. In addition, the oils are heated and reused several times, making them even more toxic.
Dr. Eva Abbo is an internal medicine doctor based in La Jolla, California and a former Laurel resident.