How did we find ourselves in a position where:
- 60% of the U.S. adult population has a chronic disease
- 40% has two or more chronic diseases
- Over 40% of the adult population is considered clinically obese
If you have not read it yet, author Jeff Nobbs has compiled an excellent article where he showcases many of the favorable trends in behaviors over several decades (less smoking, a moderation in alcohol consumption, an increase in activity levels) and we still find ourselves in an obesity epidemic. In fact, since 2000, the adult obesity percentage of the population has increased from 30% to over 40%, and shows no sign of slowing down.
I’ve written often about diet and how the choices we make on what to eat, how often to eat, and the quality of ingredients play such an important role in our health and wellness. In fact, if you have not seen it yet, I encourage you to watch the documentary FAT FICTION, which highlights how much of what we have been told with respect to the role of fat and sugar has been incorrect, leading us to make poor nutritional choices and contributing to the acceleration of Type II diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease.
In Jeff Nobbs’ latest article, https://www.jeffnobbs.com/posts/death-by-vegetable-oil-what-the-studies-say, he draws a link between obesity and the huge increase in use of vegetable oils. To ground ourselves, when we say vegetable oil, we mean oils extracted from seeds, grains, and legumes, and include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and cottonseed oil. When we review the major dietary trends that have changed in the last 100 years, our use of vegetable oils has increased from 0% to now accounting for approximately 20% of the calories we ingest daily.
Wait, aren’t vegetable oils billed as healthy? With unsaturated fats and “no cholesterol?” Yes, they are sold as such, which may be the problem. The unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils oxidize when heated, which then becomes damaging to the body in the form of inflammation. This inflammation contributes to plaque build-up in the arteries and can contribute to coronary heart disease.
Vegetable oils are also high in Omega-6 fatty acids. You may have heard or read that we need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for proper health. That’s true, as both of these fatty acids are essential, meaning the body cannot make them, so it needs them to be ingested from foods (preferably) or supplements. Ideally, we would want a symbiotic balance in quantity of these fatty acids, meaning a ratio of 1:1. Even if there is a slight imbalance, say 1:3 or 1:4, (meaning, for every 1 measure of Omega-3, we’re ingesting 3 or 4 measures of Omega-6), no medical studies that I’m aware of show that to be a serious health concern. The problem is we aren’t even close. In fact, we are closer to a 1:20 ratio, meaning we are ingesting 20X the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids as Omega-3! With these huge imbalances, the fact that vegetable oils in a heated state cause inflammation, and the dramatic increase in chronic disease related to diet and nutrition, more research on the “root cause” of these issues, and whether vegetable oil is a clear contributor, is urgently needed.
If you are looking for options when purchasing foods or for cooking on your own:
- Remove: Stay away from anything that has partially hydrogenated oils. Those are vegetable oils that have been heated in the presence of hydrogen and become loaded with trans fats, which are linked to chronic diseases.
- Substitute: For cooking under high heat, consider organic coconut oil. Loaded with healthy saturated fats and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s), coconut oil is more stabile under heat (less likely to oxidize) and a small amount goes a long way. It is not without controversy, so do your homework first.
- Olive oil is a great choice. There is a reason the Mediterranean diet, universally admired as healthy and a significant improvement over today’s standard American diet, uses olive oil as a backbone for light cooking as well as topping. Olive oil is not as great as a solution for heavy cooking/frying, and stick with the extra virgin that is pure for best results.
- Balance: Reduce the consumption of vegetable oils and increase the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids to re-balance. Foods like cold water fish, macadamia nuts, flax seed, hemp seeds, walnuts and other options can re-set the relationship and balance the body seeks.