The dangers of transfats and many vegetable oils

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Greg Maurer

People tend to be very black and white regarding how they view fat intake – from fat is great to fat is the cause of all disease.    Of course, neither position is correct.  The types of fat you consume and the ratios of these fats along with other constituents of your diet determine how healthy or unhealthy fat intake is!

Having said there is one type of fat is clearly terrible for your health:  partially hydrogenated fat aka “trans fats”.    In fact there are two types of trans fats – naturally occurring and man-made and you guessed it – the man-made trans fats are the problem! You need to avoid them like the plague.    These man-made fats were created to improve shelf-life of products rather than using saturated fats which are also shelf-stable.

Almost all pre-packaged foods contain trans fats including margarine and spreads, store bought cookies, cake and pie crusts; frozen pizza; canned biscuits and rolls; crackers and potato chips and fried foods.

Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol and directly increase your risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Linoleic Acid

Another fat that is the cause of much disease is the excessive consumption of Linoleic Acid.    Linoleic acid is an Omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid and is required to produce various hormones and essential chemicals in our bodies.   The problem is that we are eating a whole lot more of these fats than our bodies were designed to handle.    When you consume too much – which the vast majority of Americans do – its is broken down into toxic metabolites such as aldehydes and acrolein resulting in chronic inflammation.

Excessive linoleic acid acts as a biological poison and is cytotoxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic and causes fat cells to store more fat!

Where does Linoleic Acid come from in our diet?

Within the last 150 years human consumption of vegetable oils/fats has sky-rocketed – take a look at most mayonnaise, salad dressing, and snack foods and you will almost always see soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, or other nut or vegetable oil.    With few exceptions these fat sources are chock full of linoleic acid.   The consumption of vegetable oils in the US has increased from less than 2 grams per day in 1860 to 80 grams per day as of 2010.  In 1900, 99% of added fats where from animal fats (mostly saturated fat).    In 2005, 85% of added fats were from vegetable oils.

There is a clear and strong correlation between common health conditions and vegetable oil intake – there is NO correlation between naturally occurring animal based saturated fats and disease.   This is not to say that some people do not experience increased levels of cholesterol from saturated fat intake but that is not the norm!

What is the Answer?

Avoiding trans fats and excessive linoleic acid is pretty simple:

  1. Avoid processed shelf-stable foods whenever possible – they are almost always full of trans fats and/or high levels of vegetable oils packed with linoleic acid.
  2. Choose whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, meats, fish, whole nuts, poultry and eggs.
  3. Avoid stick margarine and vegetable shortening.
  4. Avoid fried foods – choose foods that are baked, steamed, broiled or grilled.
  5. When you do choose packaged foods read the label and avoid foods with ingredients including “partially hydrogenated”; “trans fatty acids”; canola oil, corn oil, soybean oils and other vegetable and seed oils.
  6. Make your own salad dressings with organic extra virgin olive oil packaged in small glass bottles what has a harvest date listed within the last 18 months or less! Olive oil can be very healthy but it is fragile and goes rancid very easily so pay attention to these tips to get benefits from olive oil.
  7. For mayonnaise choose mayo made with avocado oil which is shelf-stable but not full of trans fats!
  8. Use butter or extra virgin coconut fat/oil for high heat cooking.
  9. For quick stir frying and sautéing use a high quality Olive Oil.    Lastly, remember that ALL fats are high in calories so watch your fat intake!

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