The NHS directive on healthy eating is known as the Eatwell Guide; never has an official document been so incorrectly named. One of the many fallacies it contains is the recommendation to replace natural fats like butter, lard, dripping and ghee with polyunsaturated ‘vegetable’ oils
This is from the NHS website, Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts. Unsaturated fats are healthier fats and include vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils. Remember all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten sparingly.
They make the claim that ‘unsaturated’ fats are healthier (than what?) without providing any evidence. They also make the mistake of suggesting that we should limit fat intake because it contains more calories (than carbohydrates). [This fallacy is debunked elsewhere on this site.] The quoted list of ‘healthy’ oils includes vegetable which is a misleading catch-all term for oils which do not come from animals – it is not a specific oil. Bottles in the supermarket labelled Vegetable Oil are usually blends of cheap seed oils. Rapeseed and sunflower oils are extracted from seeds with an industrial, high temperature and solvent process. Olive oil comes from the fruit of the olive tree and can be obtained by simply pressing the olives. Olive oil has been consumed for about 6,000 years, whereas industrial seed oils have been eaten for only the one hundred years since their extraction method was invented. The last one hundred years coincides with the greatest decline in human health that we know of.
What is wrong with seed oils?
There is nothing natural or healthy about the way in which they are made;
- Seeds are gathered from the soy, corn, cotton, safflower, and rapeseed plants.
- The seeds are heated to extremely high temperatures, which causes the unsaturated fatty acids in the seeds to oxidize. These oxidised by-products that are harmful to human health.
- A petroleum-based solvent, such as hexane, is used to maximize the amount of oil extracted.
- Seed oil manufacturers then use chemicals to deodorize the oils, which have a very unpleasant smell. The deodorization process produces trans fats, which are well known to be quite harmful to human health.
- Finally, more chemicals are added to improve the colour.
The first edible seed oils were made in America by two soap manufacturers called Proctor and Gamble. They started making soap with cottonseed oil, which was regarded as a toxic waste product from the cotton industry. They soon realised that cottonseed oil could be ‘hydrogenated’ into something resembling lard and they sold it as a substitute for traditional cooking fat under the name Crisco. They had managed to turn ‘toxic waste’ into a food substitute. ‘Vegetable’ oil was not a scientist’s health promoting discovery. It was a heavily advertised profit opportunity, which soon went from just cooking oil to the butter substitute margarine. Proctor and Gamble were now a big company and they gave large sums of money to the recently formed American Heart Association. In return, the AHA promoted P&G’s seed oil concoctions as ‘heart healthy’, without any genuine evidence to prove their claim.
What else is wrong with seed oils?
- They do not fit with our evolution. Our bodies evolved over millions of years in response to our environment and the food we ate. Seed oils contain a high proportion of a fatty acid called linoleic acid. It is estimated that the average diet now contains 8 times as much linoleic acid as our distant ancestors used to consume. Our genetic make-up and biological systems cannot cope with such a large dose of this one ingredient.
- The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is wrong. There are certain essential fatty acids that we need to thrive but cannot make. We have to eat these in our food and they are known as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 acids give rise to inflammation and omega-3 acids are anti-inflammatory. Our ancient diets had a ratio between these two opposing actions of approximately 1 to 1 and our bodies were, therefore, in balance. Seed oils contain considerably more omega-6 relative to omega-3 and many western diets have a ratio of up to 20 to 1. This imbalance produces a state of chronic inflammation that contributes to numerous chronic diseases.
- The polyunsaturated fatty acids in industrial seed oils are highly unstable. They oxidize easily upon exposure to heat and light, creating two harmful substances—trans fats and lipid peroxides. Trans fats are well known for their role in the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; in fact, for every 2 percent increase in calories from trans fats, your risk of heart disease is nearly doubled. Lipid peroxides are toxic by-products that damage DNA, proteins, and membrane lipids throughout the body. The accumulation of lipid peroxides in the body promotes aging and the development of chronic diseases. Restaurants, fast food outlets and fish and chip shops fry their food in seed oils. Every time the oils are reheated they create more toxic by-products.
- They contain unhealthy additives. Because the fatty acids in industrial seed oils are so unstable, synthetic antioxidants are added in an attempt to prevent the oils from turning rancid. These chemicals are not healthy. They have hormone-disrupting, cancer-causing, and immunity-disrupting properties. One of them, known as TBHQ, has been found to increase the risk of food allergies.
The NHS tells us to replace the naturally occurring, animal-derived fats like butter and lard with these unnatural, industrial, toxic, inflammation-inducing concoctions because they are the ‘healthy choice’. Our population has never been more unhealthy. The NHS Eatwell Guide is wrong.