Refined oils (and especially vegetable and seed oils) have become a big part of the Western diet, and they’re generating a lot of controversy these days. Especially on social media, many people are saying that these oils are one of the driving factors in the large increase in various diseases like cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Do we need to eliminate refined oils from our diet altogether? If we don’t, are we imperiling our health and dramatically increasing our risk of various types of disease and dysfunction?
This podcast is my evidence-based answer to those types of claims and to the questions that more and more people are asking me these days about these oils.
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2:16 – What are refined oils?
3:20 – What happens to our body when we eat refined oils?
8:58 – How do refined oils oxidize when you cook them?
11:24 – What are the cardiovascular effects of refined oils?
13:19 – What are trans fat?
15:48 – What is your position on refined oils?
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Hi. Hi, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about refined oils, vegetable oils, seed oils, substances that have become a big part of the Western diet and which are generating a lot of controversy these days. Many people are saying that these oils are one of the.
Driving factors in the large increase in various diseases here in the west, like cancer, diabetes, and obesity. And these people are saying that we need to eliminate refined oils from our diet altogether. And if we don’t, we are going to be imperiling our health and dramatically increasing our risk of various types of disease and dysfunction, especially as we.
Older, and so this podcast is basically my evidence-based answer to those types of claims and to the questions that more and more people are asking me these days about these oils. Quickly before we get started, I want to tell you about a special giveaway that I just launched in celebration of publishing 1000 episodes of this podcast, a thousand, and to commemorate that illustrious milestone I’m giving away.
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So again, head over to Muscle for life.show/giveaway and enter now. Okay, let’s start this discussion with a, a quick description of what these refined oils are. So when food manufacturers extract oils from plants and plant materials like palm oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and others, they generally use various chemicals and processing techniques to purify that oil.
They do that because. The crude oils, the oils in their natural state contain different substances that people don’t like. They don’t taste good. They are less stable on the shelf. They go bad, easier, they don’t look as appetizing, they don’t smell as appetizing. And oils that go through those processing steps are referred to as refined oils or process.
Oils. And as I mentioned in the intro to this podcast, a lot of the controversy over these types of oils is centered on vegetable oils and seed oils. So what happens in our body when we eat these oils? As I mentioned in the intro, many people, many. Influencers in particular. I see a lot of this on social media these days are saying that over the past century, refined oils from vegetables, nuts, and seeds, like some of the ones that I mentioned have become a larger and larger part of the Western diet.
And during that same period, we have also seen an explosion in diseases like cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Is there a connection? Many of these people say yes. Not only is there a connection, this is one of the primary causative factors. How true is that? Well, my position is yes, there is a connection, but it’s not what many ancestral eaters would have you.
Believe, namely, the bulk of scientific evidence shows that in most cases, refined oils are not unhealthy per se by themselves, but a diet that is rich in refined oils is unhealthy and can lead to health problems. So, That’s my position. And now I’m going to break it down. Let’s talk about different elements of what I just said.
Let’s start with refined oils and the omega six to omega-3 ratio, because this is something that is often claimed as irrefutable evidence of how unhealthy these oils are. So, Refined oils became more readily available At the beginning of the 20th century. Food manufacturers began to use them to prepare many different types of prepackaged convenience foods like crackers and biscuits, cookies, pastries, pies, mayonnaise, margarine, and so forth.
And. Because of that, people started to consume more and more of these refined oils far more than ever before. And since vegetable oils typically contain more Omega six fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, which just refers to the structure of the fatty acid, the amount of omega six fatty acids in the standard Western.
Skyrocketed. For instance, research conducted by scientists at the Center for Genetics suggests that for most of human history, we consumed roughly equal amounts of Omega six and omega-3 fatty acids, so a ratio around one to one. However, since vegetable oil intake has increased dramatically, starting. 120 years ago, that ratio is now as high as 20 to one with many people, not all people, of course, but with many people in favor of Omega six fatty acids.
And some researchers have theorized that that imbalance between omega six and omega-3 fatty acids contributes to chronic inflammation, which underlies many common Western diseases, including cardiovascular disease type two diabetes. I. Bowel syndrome, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, some cancers, and even psychiatric disorders.
The problem with that theory though, is the current weight of the evidence doesn’t support it. There are several systematic reviews of large numbers of studies, for example, that have found no link between omega six and omega-3 consumption and increased systemic inflam. In fact, in one study that was conducted by scientists at Mast University Medical Center, researchers found that when participants ate meals high in Omega six fatty acids, they had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood than when they ate meals high in saturated fat.
Therefore, there is no strong evidence-based argument that you can make for singling out omega six fatty acids. The problem and that ratio between Omega six fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. What other research suggests though, is the absolute amount of omega-3 fatty acids matters greatly, and a diet that is very rich in omega six fatty acids and also provides enough, at least omega-3 fatty acids is perfectly healthy, but one which is rich in omega six fatty acids and provides very little.
Omega-3 fatty acids is unhealthy. And again, the key there though is the absolute amount of omega-3 fatty acids. For example, studies show that we need to have, on average about 500 milligrams of E P A and d h a to omega-3 fatty acids that you find in fish, for example, or a fish oil if you are going to take a supplement just to maintain our health.
That is for basic. Needs, and if we want to experience some of the other benefits that higher intakes of E P A and D H A can confer related to inflammation, possibly performance, then we need to take quite a bit more up to maybe about three grams of E P A and D H A per day. And so then instead of telling people to simply eat less Omega six fatty acids, it would be far more helpful to encourage them to eat enough omega-3 fatty acids and to just consume a variety of healthy foods that are rich in different types of fatty acids.
3, 6, 9, eat salmon, eat mackarel. Eat an trophies. If you can do it . Eat walnuts. That’s my choice. I’ll take the walnuts over the anchovies. Eat almonds, cashews, eat avocado, eat olive oil, put it on your salads. Cook with olive oil or avocado oil if you want to be exotic. Okay, now let’s talk about refined oils and oxidation Another.
Common charge leveled against refined oils is how they oxidize when you cook with them and how bad that is for your health. And so what is oxidation exactly? Well, it is simply a chemical process whereby substances in the refined oils react with chemicals in the moisture and air, and the change that occurs might.
Be harmful to eat. There’s research that shows it is that consuming repeatedly heated vegetable oils in particular. So you have these vegetable oils that are super heated. Usually it’s for frying food, and then they are super heated again and again and again. There is evidence to show that eating foods that are cooked in those oils can be bad for our health.
But then there are studies that show. . Otherwise, there are studies that show that there are no obvious negative consequences despite the increased oxidation and given the conflicting evidence, I think it’s reasonable to follow the guidance of a 2015 review published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In this study, the researchers concluded that cooking with vegetable oils is probably safe, but it still makes sense to minimize oxidation, so don’t super heat the oils. Don’t heat them too very high temperatures and don’t reuse them. Now, of course, it’s worth noting that if you are eating a healthy diet, which means most of your calories are coming from relatively unprocessed, nutritious foods, you are not going to be doing much frying of anything.
You are not going to be super He. Vegetable oils because you only do that to fry foods. But if you do like to make some homemade fried whatever now and then, and for whatever reason you do not want to air fry, which would be my recommendation, if you really like fried food, Get an air fryer, but let’s say that there’s a recipe that requires frying something in vegetable oil.
I am going to guess this is not something that you could or would even want to eat every day. It might be your weekly treat meal, for example, or maybe not even that often. It’s okay. You can enjoy it guilt free. Alright, let’s talk about these refined oils and heart health, which is kind of interesting because aside from being cheap and readily available, one of the reasons they are popular is they have been associated with improved heart health.
So for decades now, public health officials have recommended substituting saturated fats for polyunsaturated fats because there’s evidence that those who do that will suffer. Cardiovascular related problems. However, the studies that support that evidence tend to be observational in nature, which means that they can show two things are associated, but not that one causes the other.
And this is important to know because there are many other factors that contribute to heart health. Many other components of our lifestyle, our physical activity levels, our stress levels, our sleep, and. Dietary habits. So I don’t think that there’s good evidence that polyunsaturated fat, like what you’ll find in vegetable oil or seed oil, is better for maintaining your heart health than saturated fat.
And to back that claim up with some evidence, there are a number of meta-analysis of randomized. Trials that have shown that switching to vegetable oil does very little to improve your heart health or your risk of dying from cardiovascular complications. And so I would not recommend swapping saturated fat for polyunsaturated fat.
Entirely. Instead, I would recommend getting a mix of both in your diet. I also recommend limiting your saturated fat to no more than 10% of your daily calories, because a large body of research shows that in many people, too much saturated fat. Increases LDL cholesterol levels, which is the quote unquote bad cholesterol that increases your risk of heart disease.
Okay, now let’s talk about refined oils and trans fat, which just refers to a certain type of molecular structure of the fatty acid. We don’t. Need to get into more details than that for this discussion. And you’ll find trans fat, that type of fat in nature. You’ll find it in meat, in dairy, small amounts, and you can also find small amounts naturally in some vegetables.
But there is an artificial type of trans fat that forms when refined oils are going through the process of hydrogenation, which makes them. At room temperature takes them from liquid at room temperature to solid, and this artificial trans fat is a problem. You don’t have to worry about the small amounts of natural trans fat that might be in your diet because you eat some meat and eat some dairy.
But artificial trans fat, you want to stay away from, there is no question that it contributes to multiple chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes. And it doesn’t take huge amounts of artificial trans fat to start causing problems. You can cause problems eating what might seem, at least to you, to be a reasonable amount of foods that contain it, which are often.
Junk food. Foods that are rich in these partially hydrogenated oils, which is how you’ll see them listed on food packaging, also referred to as mono and diglycerides of fatty acids. Sometimes that’s the phrasing. And so the foods that contain these artificial trans fats include commercial baked goods like cakes, cookies and pies, shortening microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough like biscuits and roll.
Fried foods, french fries, donuts, fried chicken, non-dairy, coffee, creamer, and stick margarine, all foods that again, if you are going to eat a healthy diet, you generally avoid. And also foods that you can completely avoid, even if you like the category. So if you like baked goods, you. Bake them yourself. Or you can find products that do not contain these artificial trans fats, these partially hydrogenated oils.
Same thing goes for any of the other things that I mentioned. You don’t have to get the unhealthiest version of those foods, and that is a good segue for me to summarize my position. Again, my current understanding of the weight of the scientific evidence. Which is that refined oils themselves appear to be benign, but often the foods that contain a lot of these oils and the amount of calories these foods contain are not benign, especially when they’re over eaten or eaten too regularly.
Crackers, cookies, chips, baked goods, granola bars, fried foods, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and so forth. Therefore, in almost all cases, a high refined oil diet is actually just a junk food diet, also known as the standard American diet in the scientific literature. And that’s a, a fitting acronym if there ever was one.
Right? And so the big problem with the sad diet is not that it has a lot of seed oil or refined oils in it, it’s that it starves the body of nutrition and it promote. Weight gain. Now, on the other hand, a low refined oil diet is really just a healthy diet. Again, comprised mostly of relatively unprocessed and nutritious foods that nourish the body and support weight maintenance, support a healthy body composition.
So as long as you do that, as long as you eat that balanced and wholesome diet, you don’t have any reason to go out of your way to avoid refined oil. Well, my friend. That is it for today’s episode. I hope you liked it. Thank you for listening, and don’t forget to enter my podcast giveaway in case you missed it because you skipped the intro.
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