A Stealthy Killer
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Industrial Seed Oils and Why You've Got to Boot Them From Your Diet.
Think you don’t eat seed oils? Read on for a little surprise. Today's post will forever change your outlook on food, big industry and public health. It's a rabbit hole that runs deep, so hold on tight. Here we go.
Take a look at the following pictures. Here we have some beautiful works of nature. Do you know what they are? These guys are among the top-grown, genetically modified agriculture in the United States. They are also some of the most heavily subsidized crops by our government, and they make up the bulk of oils we use in our society. Meet cottonseed, corn, soy, and rapeseed (blended with linseed = Canola oil). A few more of their friends are safflower, palm and sunflower oil.
If you've been reading ingredient labels (like you ought to), you may have recognized some or all of these. They are quite prevalent in our mass production of processed food. But are they natural? And have they ever been tested long-term for safe human consumption? Good questions.
We begin with a little history.
Industrial seed oils haven't always been on the shelves in people's kitchens. In fact, the story of how that came to be is very interesting and rather odd.
In the late 1800's, soap-makers Proctor and Gamble (P&G) came across cottonseed oil, also known at the time as the "toxic waste" left behind after harvesting the fiber and seeds of the plant. They decided that they could probably use it to make their soaps for a bit cheaper than the rendered pork fat (lard) that they had been using.
As they began using it to make their soaps, they couldn't help but notice how this creamy substance kind of resembled cooking fats... This gave them an idea. Soon they began working with manufacturers to experiment by adding cottonseed oil to olive oil, lard and butter incognito to try and cut costs. This eventually led to Italy banning adulterated American olive oil completely. (Mmmm...what's your first clue?) Absolutely zero research had been done to determine if this previously considered "toxic waste" was safe for human consumption. What's worse, American's didn't know they were being experimented on.
Soon after, P&G discovered the process of hydrogenation that had been recently developed in Europe, and found that through it, they could thicken the cottonseed oil to resemble lard almost exactly. They saw this new technology as a way to break into the food industry by creating something brand new. And so, in the early 1900's, Crisco (crystallized cottonseed oil) was introduced to the market as an alternative cooking fat.
The ultimate marketing campaign was launched with the goal to put Crisco in every home in America. P&G gave away recipe books for free, all of which included Crisco as a central ingredient. The company began touting the manufactured fat as cheaper, healthier because it came from plants, and easier to digest. In fact, during WWI, the government mandated bakers to use all-vegetable shortening so the higher-quality lard could be shipped to European allies. (Hmmm...) This made the product's popularity rise even more.
By the early 1940's, P&G partnered with a little group of cardiologists pursuing heart health (known today as the American Heart Association or AHA), offering them $1.5 million dollars. This would be the first time the AHA got in bed with big industry, but it certainly wouldn't be the last. The AHA began to back P&G claims that these industrial seed oils, tactfully called "vegetable oils", were a much healthier alternative to traditional cooking fat. And by the time Ancel Keys, a passionate yet dishonest scientist showed up on the scene in the mid-1950's with his diet-lipid hypothesis and his manipulated Seven Countries Study, traditional cooking fats made up of beef tallow, lard, suet and butter didn't stand a chance. It wasn't long before P&G's goal was reached, and within a few decades, many other seed oils and mock solid fats (like margarine and shortening) rose to fame as well.
Okay, so what? Seed oils come from seeds... Sounds natural enough. Oh, but it is so much more involved than that. Take a look at the plants above again. Think you could press them yourself and squeeze out some oil? Hardly. So how on God's green earth are they making them into oil? I'll tell you.
- Step 1: Harvest the seeds from the plants.
- Step 2: Heat the seeds to insanely high temperatures and cool. Repeat, again and again.
- Step 3: Process the seeds with hexane or some other petroleum-based solvent.
- Step 4: Add chemicals to deodorize the rancid smell.
- Step 5: Add more chemicals to alter the color.
Industrialized seed oils are not real food, but rather toxic waste harmful to the body.
"Altogether, industrial seed oil processing creates an energy-dense, nutrient-poor oil that contains chemical residues, transfats & oxidized byproducts."
- Chris Kresser -
The introduction of Crisco to the human diet ushered in what we now know to be trans fats. These are formed by the hydrogenation process used to make seed oils solid at room temperature. All throughout the 20th century, the AHA promoted use of these fats over animal fats at all costs, assuring the public of it's health and safety. It wasn't until 2013 that the AHA officially recognized hydrogenated oils as unsafe for human consumption. (Aka --"Whoops, sorry guys. Our bad.")
Still, industrialized seed oils that aren't hydrogenated have their own set of harmful effects and are still being touted as "heart healthy." Bizarre.
With extremely high amounts of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA's), these oils are easily oxidized with any exposure to light, chemical inputs, and/or heat, and they become rancid very quickly. The oxidizing process that occurs in these highly unstable bonds causes lipid peroxides (toxic byproducts) and trans fatty acids to form. This is not breaking news. Manufacturers know full well what happens here, so to try and prevent it, they add synthetic forms of antioxidants in attempt to stop the oils from being oxidized and turning rancid too quickly.
The toxic byproducts produced as a result of seed oil processing and oxidation are prevalent and the effects on the human body are absolutely disastrous. These include the reduction of vitamin C, the increase of free radicals, damage to various proteins, membrane lipids and even the DNA itself. All of this sets the stage for premature aging and chronic disease that comes in many forms.
And further down the rabbit hole we go. Onward.
The synthetic antioxidants most often added to seed oils are BHA, BHT and TBHQ and are proven to disrupt the immune system within the body. More specifically, they increase immunoglobulin E, which ignites antibody responses and thus encourages food allergies. They also disrupt the endocrine system and are carcinogenic. Ouch.
Perhaps one of the biggest, most blatant problems with seed oils is that they are the most copious source of Omega-6 fatty acids in the Standard American Diet (SAD). The effects of a diet too high in Omega-6's are well published and should be taken very seriously.
"Omega-6 fats not only fuel your body's inflammatory pathways, but also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues..."
- Dr. Mark Hyman -
Here are just some of the following conditions associated with this harmful process:
- chronic inflammation
- impaired gut function
- autoimmune disease
- rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- macular degeneration
- cardiovascular disease (Check out the "Oxidized Linoleic Acid Theory of Coronary Heart Disease.")
- poor brain health (depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, suicidal/homicidal tendencies, dementia, aggression and Alzheimers.)
As you can see, this river runs deep. The bottom line is that industrialized seed oils are likely the biggest source of trouble in the western diet today and should be avoided at all costs.
In order to avoid them, you need to know the names of each. They are:
- Vegetable oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Safflower oil
- Palm oil
- Sunflower oil
Instead, we need to be using the following:
- Cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Pastured butter & ghee
- Pastured tallow & suet
- Pastured lard
- Duck fat
Eat real food. Read your ingredient labels.
I wish I could say it's going to be easy to cut industrial seed oils out of your life. It's not. The problem is that they are used in nearly every processed food being sold to you at the grocery, in nearly every baking recipe put out there, and in restaurants all across the country. That means that you're going to have to step back into the driver's seat and resume control. Again, we're talking about being willing to do hard things...
Give up the small comforts and conveniences and figure out another way.
You can do it. And your health is worth it.
Next we're going to discuss all the noise surrounding dietary fat in general. Remember, fat is an ESSENTIAL nutrient for our existence. It does the body good to understand the different kinds and how they truly interact with the body. Stay tuned, grasshopper. It's coming soon.