Updated: Jul 12
All of us know that home-cooked food is healthy, but what if you find out that the worse of all the food items is sitting in your kitchen and you consume it daily. It is insidious, most doctors don't warn you about this - they are vegetable oils. I have talked about them in brief earlier but it's not enough, for this information is so critical, this should reach every nook and corner of our country. If you use vegetable oils instead of butter, ghee, lard, tallow or suet to cook your food, pay attention. Vegetable oils are the worst food you could ever eat, this single food item can cause havoc in your system and you won't even realize unless you succumb to symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Actually these oils are not derived from vegetables but seeds which go through a complex processing steps. Examples are corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, peanut, and canola.
Saturated Fat Vs Unsaturated Fats
What are different kinds of fats that people commonly consume? They can either be classified by their origin or by the structure. Saturated fats are long chains of carbon atoms without any double bonds between carbon atoms whereas unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds in them. Unsaturated fats are further classified based on the position and number of the double bonds. Monounsaturated fats have a single double bond between carbon atoms, whereas omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 are Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) with more than one double bonds. Animal source foods like Meat, fish, eggs and dairy are the primary source of saturated fats whereas unsaturated fats specially PUFAs are present in vegetable oils and almost all packaged foods like cereals, biscuits etc. Vegetable oils are pervasive in fast foods and restaurants and they primarily contain PUFAs which are the most concerning kind of fats because of their potential long term effects on our body. PUFAs are even present in meat and eggs from animals which are raised in feed lots and fed corn and soy instead of their natural food for e.g. chickens' natural diet is grass and bugs but broiler chickens are fed corn and soy which disturb omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in them, in their eggs as well as their meat.
Structure of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids
As you can see in the figure above saturated fatty acids are straight chains while unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) are wiggly hence cannot be stacked one over other. To resolve this problem of UFA, they are made to undergo hardening, a chemical process done in factory. UFA, specially PUFAs are also unstable because they have sites of unsaturation (double bonds) which are prone to oxidation by oxygen - more the double bonds, more the molecule is prone to oxidation. It is for this reason that it is advised not to overcook a fatty fish because it could potentially denature it's naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids.
How Seed Oils came into food supply?
A little understanding of history of these oils will tell you the prejudice behind introduction of these oils into our food supply. PUFAs were primarily used in machinery in factories until the invention of hydrogenation around 1940. Hydrogenation is a complex process, which a seed, from which these oils are derived, undergoes to finally have a product which is palatable. A crude product received from the seeds, after applying high pressure and high heat, is actually a gray substance which is rancid and unstable which is then deodorized to remove smell, winterized to make it stable and then enhanced with added artificial colors and synthetic vitamins. Proctor and Gamble, the company which was the first to produce vegetable oils commercially through a brand Crisco had strong ties with American Heart Association so much so that AHA was launched by Proctor and Gamble and had received a huge sum of money which enabled AHA to expand its offices across US, which enabled Crisco to sell oils by labeling them heart healthy without considering its consequences on health. This engineered food that is far from its natural state is what we put in our mouth and is very commonly present in packaged foods.
After the invention of hydrogenation and adoption of Ancel Keys' diet heart hypothesis which (wrongly) blamed saturated fats for causing heart disease (in the absence of any strong evidence), consumption of these oils across the world sky-rocketed and so has the graph of obesity and chronic diseases of modern world. Several studies that refuted Ancel Keys' diet heart hypothesis were shadow banned. An NIH funded study that completely falsified diet heart hypothesis and of which Ancel Keys' was a prominent investigator remained unpublished for 16 years. Data was finally recovered and published later, and shockingly, Ancel Keys' name was removed from the study. Another study which disproved diet heart hypothesis found that replacing SFA with PUFAs resulted in more deaths from all cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease and concluded that clinical benefits of most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6 linoleic acid have not been established. A latest 2020 study, which reviewed totality of evidence about saturated fat found no evidence to reduce SFA (saturated fatty acids) found in animal foods. Without any supporting evidence, institutions have been blaming saturated fats for damages done by sugar, ultra processed foods and grains. But any evidence to contrary continues to be ignored till today which I believe is a case of criminal negligence.
How Vegetable oils could effect us?
As you already know now that PUFAs are prone to oxidation and that leads to increased oxidative stress in our body if we consume vegetable oils. Fat is a key constituent of our cell membranes which will become prone to attacks from reactive oxygen species or oxidative stress due to presence of PUFAs. Your skin will undergo ageing as a result of that. Another mechanism by which PUFAs can cause damage is in the way PUFAs undergo beta-oxidation in mitochondria to release energy. Beta-oxidation of PUFAs sends your entire body a signal to become insulin resistance which leads to fat deposition in adipocytes. It is important to note that we have a process called de-novo-lipogenesis in our bodies which synthesize fat and guess what our body naturally makes saturated fats and not unsaturated fats. Insulin resistance is the culprit which drives all chronic metabolic diseases including fatty liver, obesity, diabetes, cancer, CVD etc. In a study, which is a randomized control trial (gold standard of studies), decreasing saturated fat and increasing PUFA in the diet resulted in increased Lp(a) and oxidized LDL which are known risk factors of Heart Disease. Vegetable oils are a slow poison that would take away your health, life and the life of your loved ones slowly without you realizing it.
2. Book, 'The Big Fat Surprise' by Nina Teicholz