Originally published June 18 2009
Fats to Avoid: The Polyunsaturated Oil Epidemic
by Elizabeth Walling
(NaturalNews) They sit on the grocery store aisles, appearing rather innocent. They are clear and odorless - mainly because they have been bleached and deodorized with chemicals after high-heat processing has turned them rancid. And, interestingly enough, they are touted as a health food that can save your heart.
They are polyunsaturated oils like soybean, canola and corn oil. They are industrialized oil, and they have reared their ugly heads at the health of modern society.
Why is polyunsaturated fat bad for your health?
The main difference between polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat (like olive oil) is the structure. Monounsaturated fatty acids are linked by one double bond, but polyunsaturated fats are linked by multiple double bonds. This structure is unstable and wreaks havoc on the cells in your body. It contributes to oxidation and free radical damage in the body, which is linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases and premature aging.
The instability of polyunsaturated fats is especially volatile during any kind of processing. Even small amounts of light, moisture, air or heat damage polyunsaturated fat. These oils cannot withstand exposure to heat when used for cooking, but they are still the main choice for restaurants and fast food joints because they are cheap and the claim "cooked in vegetable oil" sounds healthier to customers. The truth is that cooking with these oils turns them rancid, making them even more dangerous when consumed.
Another concern about consuming high levels of omega-6 fatty acids is they may interfere with the body's production of prostaglandins. This can cause many adverse conditions in the body, including blood clots, sterility, poor immunity, indigestion, and cancer.
Too much omega-6 fatty acids can also interfere with the use of the very important omega-3 fatty acids in the body. And since polyunsaturated oils are used almost exclusively in conventional processed foods, it's very easy for people to take in far more omega-6 fatty acids than their body can use. The omega-6 fatty acids in these oils essentially crowds out the omega-3's, leaving people's health to suffer as a result.
What about the claims that polyunsaturated oils are good for your heart?
Some experts have advised the public to toss out the traditional cooking fats like coconut oil and butter, and replace them with polyunsaturated oils instead. They say this will save your heart, but heart disease is more rampant than ever while we virtually soak our foods in these oils.
Historically, the evidence is hard to miss. Heart disease was a rare occurrence when most cultures consumed mainly fats like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, tallow and ghee. The rate of heart disease began to skyrocket in the early 20th century - just about the time when polyunsaturated oils became popular, mainly because they could be cheaply manufactured.
So, do we need to shun these oils completely?
Not exactly. You can still consume small amounts of these oils in your diet - if they aren't damaged and rancid. Avoiding processed foods can do a lot to protect you from rancid polyunsaturated oils. If you choose to purchase polyunsaturated oils, buy them organic and cold-pressed in opaque containers. Even then, these oils are best for sprinkling lightly over salads and not for cooking, since even medium heat can damage them. Instead, cook with traditional oils that can withstand the heat, such as coconut oil.
About the authorElizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:
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