So there’s this great debate about saturated fat versus omega 6 polyunsaturated fat regarding their effect on heart health. If you ask me, there is no debate, considering the lack of any convincing or current evidence that oils high in omega 6 will cause any benefit to heart health. My personal experience has definitely convinced me to steer clear for a good while now.
Here’s an example of an informative, yet ultimately misleading article, which admits cholesterol and saturated fat aren’t as bad as they used to say, yet still goes on to recommend replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fats-full-story/
My favorite part is the part in the marg(ar)in of the article that goes something like this: “New liquid vegetable oils from new seeds – One way to get around the spoiling problem is to reduce or eliminate the substances most responsible for it. In vegetable oils, that would be linolenic acid, one of the omega-3 fatty acids. Selective breeding programs at the Iowa State University and elsewhere have created soybeans and other seeds with very low levels of linolenic acid. Oil made from low-linolenic soybeans is more stable than oil made from regular soybeans. But since this process eliminates healthful alpha-linolenic acid, one of the healthful components of many vegetable oils, it will be important to get omega-3 fats from other sources, such as fatty fish or walnuts.” So let me get this straight. You want to find a way around eating saturated fats by genetically modifying soybeans that could be made into vegetable oils with even less omega 3s? What the—? And okay, even if we’ve only proven that one fatty acid (as we’ll talk about in a second here), linolenic, is the cause of all the problems, we still haven’t shown that saturated fat causes an increase in risk of heart disease. So why not just eat red meat and butter instead of refined carbohydrates?!
On the sane side of the spectrum (over in the Paleo community as opposed to in academics), there is this article by Chris Kresser about the comparison, and it is top notch. It pretty much lays out the latest (at least at the time) study’s evidence for why the AHA’s recommendation of replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils is misguided, misleading, and actually quite dangerous. To be more specific, the study was testing the effects of replacing saturated fats with linolenic acid, even employing supplementation of safflower oil capsules in the intervention group :-/ The results of this meta-analysis were an increase in death from all causes, including heart disease in the intervention group (the seed-oil pill poppers). DUH!
Sadly, though, this only disproves one of the suggested replacement oils as being helpful. I’d like to see a study of people who ate just olive oil and nuts and no butter or meat at all and see who lived longer. I’d feel sorry for the intervention group for sure.
Interestingly, when looking at the actual study, one will come across a disclaimer in the first line of the Conclusions of all places stating “Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction,” yet it goes on to say, “However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established.” This kind of ticks me off. It is the proper scientific thing to do to point out that they only tested for one omega 6 fatty acid, but they did not have to start by saying the advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component, blah blah blah. I guess that is a neutral statement in essence, though, because they do go on to imply that the evidence at least for this specific acid in the reduction of heart risk is not proven. So, I guess I’m complaining for nothing. It just kind of sounded like it could mean that regardless of this one acid that shows no evidence of lowered risk as a replacement, this is still a good practice for prevention. The English language can be so ambivalent.
In any case, my body has given me corroborating evidence of the inflammatory properties of vegetable oils. When I was super sick and had just moved out of the moldy craphole I used to call a home, I was still figuring out what I could eat without having major bowel troubles and having the rest of the day plagued by a steady upward trickle of refluxed gastric juices to my throat/esophagus/lips. For some reason, I thought Qdoba would be the place. There’s white rice, chicken, and a nice seasonal vegetable medley they do as a side. Also, they have guacamole, and avocados happened to be an early staple in my detox diet. (They were my only joy and comfort.) I noticed after a very satisfying, and I thought well-deserved, “naked” burrito with my usual fixin’s of cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and mild sauce that my reflux was coming up stronger than usual. This dismayed me quite thoroughly, and I tried eliminating stuff over the next couple visits to narrow it down. Nothing I did worked. Mind you, I was getting the side of seasonal vegetables every time.
So I pretty much gave up on it. Pretty soon after giving up was about the time I started asking what oils were in everything. When I asked Qdoba later on or one of those times (can’t remember—brain fog), they told me they used soybean oil. It turns out they actually drench the seasonal vegetables in soybean oil, too! So, it is probably the least healthy thing to get at Qdoba. So putting it all together, the silent reflux, as well as some classic reflux too at the time, I was experiencing could be simply explained by inflammation. Some theories say this could be the actual cause of reflux and the pain of reflux. The soybean oil, being of an inflammatory (omega 6) nature, increased general inflammation in my body as it was being introduced to my gut (causing leaky gut in the process, which leads to further inflammation). It’s a vicious cycle.
This would be a good time to note that Chipotle has been slowly moving away from soybean oil, which is awesome. Some of the ones we went to still use it for most of the meats except for the steak, but we went to one the other day in PA that didn’t have it in like anything! We were so psyched, and got the barbacoa. The guacamole sucked that day, though. The other cool thing about Chipotle is that they are adopting (or at least advertising) an anti-GMO, farm-to-table type of model for their business. They source locally when they can, which is incredible considering how many freaking Chipotles there are in the U.S. So that’s a good easy and cheap choice if you’re a Paleo eater and stuck with no way to get food on the road.
So, getting back to the story, I think that was about the time I learned about the Bulletproof diet and read all the recommendations against vegetable oils. Up until that point, I really had no idea about the inflammatory properties of these oils. I mean, how could I? Nobody tells you these things. I had even been eating for 3 or 4 years regular meals prepared at home with gobs and gobs of dirt-cheap vegetable oil dowsing a high-carb plate of rice, eggs, some crappy frozen veggies, and meat. Little did I know that these delicious concoctions had been doing very difficult-to-reverse damage to my gut and thus various other tissues in my body. So since I’ve started to ask restaurants about what they cooked in, I’ve quickly realized why it is unhealthy to eat out at all. Everyone uses this crap! Because it’s cheap!
Restaurants have gradually phased out cooking in butter and tallow over the past several decades, backed up by a lie perpetuated by Ancel Keys and Senator McGovern. It never has stopped, because it’s cheap and people have been duped by these guys into thinking it’s healthier! A good movie on the topic is Fat Head. The guy who made it just wanted to debunk Supersize Me because he found it to be very unscientific and biased, but he ended up discovering all of the lies of pop nutrition and ultimately going Paleo. Sweet!
So, if you have acid reflux, arthritis, chronic fatigue, brain fog, yeast infections, or other problems with systemic inflammation, one of the things you ought to look out for is how the oils you cook with affect your symptoms. I can almost guarantee you that any seed oil will lead to more inflammation, and butter/tallow/lard/coconut as cooking media will always make you feel much better. Not only this, but if you make it a habit and eat strictly organic and clean-sourced food cooked at home in these oils for a year or two, you will eventually be able to eliminate these chronic conditions. It wouldn’t hurt to combine that with some fish oil/vitamin D & K2/magnesium/probiotic supplementation, high-intensity and brief exercise, increased general activity, yoga, awareness of environmental toxins, and stress management. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere, and this oil issue is one that people seem to turn a blind-eye to or even not be aware of at all.
Vegetable oil kills, I’m telling you!