Why I Stopped Using Vegetable Oil - The Science

It’s become fairly common knowledge that vegetable oil is bad for you, and olive oil is better, but that doesn’t change the fact that canola oil (or soybean/corn/etc oil) is cheap, readily available, in everything, and extremely convenient when cooking. For a long time, I limited my use of vegetable oil, opting for olive oil whenever I was sauteing, but I continued to use it in baking, frying, and to make certain salad dressings. The high smoke point and neutral flavor of the oil is invaluable for a home-chef like myself, and I figured that as long as I used LESS vegetable oil, it would help.
Well, that’s true. But after investigating vegetable oil, I’ve decided to eliminate it completely.

Essentially, here is what my research discovered:

Oil, in general, is highly processed. The processing is actually rather fascinating, from a technical standpoint, but long story short...this process damages the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are found in most vegetables oils. In the human body, the shape of various particles and chemicals is critical for processing - you have little goofy enzyme doohickeys floating around in your cells that specifically bind to particles that that a specific shape - it’s kind of like really complicated legos. Because of this, shape is incredibly important when your body is digesting food - if the shape of something gets screwed up, you won’t be able to process it properly because it won’t fit correctly, kind of like if a Lego nub got bent on a block, it would screw up the process of building the Lego house.

Have you ever been told that you should eat blueberries because they have antioxidants?

That’s because oxidation is this really obnoxious process that screws up the shape of the doohickeys and gives you problems - like cancer, inflammation, weight gain (unrelated to calories in/calories out), diabetes, and other issues. When the lipoproteins (doohickeys) get screwed up, your body is unable to process them properly, and they sit around in your blood...eventually forming plaque that causes clogged arteries and heart problems….not to mention spurs inflammatory processes leading to the weight gain and retention.

The science is more complicated than that, of course, but that’s the gist of it. See my sources for more information.

Long story short, it looks like the PUFAs, though fine normally, change shape and undergo crazy amounts of oxidation when heated. After they oxidize, they also help oxidize other stuff. It’s kind of like a game of group tag, where whenever a person is tagged they become an additional tagger. Except instead of ‘tag’ it’s ‘disease-causing-oxidation’.

Essentially, the refining process heats the oils up way past their smoke points, damaging the PUFAs in the vegetable oil, and making them crazy bad for you (this link too!). Unrefined oils are another story...but unless you have lots of money, you probably can’t afford those.

A Note On Cholesterol: Using oils and fat that are high in saturated fat (butter, coconut oil, etc) is generally considered a bad idea because saturated fat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol. This is inarguable. However, saturated fat also increases HDL (good) cholesterol, and a lot of modern evidence indicates that it is the LDL:HDL ratio that determines the risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), not the actual amounts of LDL and HDL cholesterol. It’s also worth noting that the only studies I could find that indicated vegetable oil was better than these fats used palm oil as the saturated fat diet...which, due to way it is usually refined and PUFA level, is just as bad as vegetable oil.

So, instead of using vegetable oils, I’m going to be using more butter and high-smoke-point oils that are lower in PUFAs and higher in saturated or monounsaturated fats (coconut, avocado, etc).

Just be careful - you need to use the right oil for the right job, because even healthier oils (like olive oil) can become unhealthy when heated past their smoke point. Any PUFAs in the oil will oxidize and do the same thing as vegetable oil. Look for cold-pressed oils to avoid oils that have been heated too highly during the refining process, and I will be making a “Practical Considerations” post to indicate what changes you can make in your everyday life to avoid these oils.

[UPDATE] Check out my post on some practical steps you can take to limit/eliminate your vegetable oil use:

Further Reading (many contain links to more journal articles that I didn’t link to directly)
http://time.com/4291505/when-vegetable-oil-isnt-as-healthy-as-you-think/ This article discuess the research that disproves the historical assumption that vegetable oil decreased the risk of heart disease

http://nypost.com/2017/01/31/eating-vegetable-oils-could-lead-to-fatigue-migraines-and-dementia/ (relatively) unbiased comparison of Shannahan’s analysis and the traditioanl dietary guidelines - both sides agree that vegetables oils are bad, they just disagree on how bad they are. When the opposite sides of a debate agree something is bad...it’s probably bad!

http://drcate.com/list-of-good-fats-and-oils-versus-bad/ Dr. Cate Shannahan has published a GREAT resource, comparing different types of oils and explaining the science behind why vegetable oils are bad

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/seed-oils-and-body-fatness-problematic.html This blog post demonstrates the increase in linoleic acid in human fat over time; the author shares his primary sources

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