Did you know that the oil you choose to use may be making you sick or even shortening your life span?
Industrial seed oils – the kinds commonly used by millions of Americans, maybe at the core of the recent rise in deadly chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Despite what you may have been led to believe – industrial seed oils such as soybean, canola, and corn oils are not “heart-healthy” or otherwise beneficial for our bodies and brains. In fact, according to well-known author Chris Kresser, these oils are making us sick.
The problem, Kresser says, is that these industrial oils are only a very recent addition to the human diet. These unnatural and highly processed industrial oils were only introduced into the American diet in the early 1900s. In fact, when they were first discovered, they were intended to make soap or be used as lamp oil, waxes and lubricants, and other “industrial applications” and not for consumption at all!
How, then, did they come to occupy such an influential position not only in the Standard American Diet but in “Westernized” diets around the world?
In the 1900s, Procter and Gamble found that by a manufacturing process called “hydrogenation,” these formerly toxic vegetable oils could be turned into something that resembled lard, the most popular cooking fat at the time. Thus, “Crisco” was born. It was cheap – much more inexpensive to make than rendering pork fat into cooking lard, and through clever marketing, it soon became a staple in American kitchens.
Other vegetable oils soon followed. Soybeans were introduced to the United States in the 1930s, and by the 1950s, it had become the most popular vegetable oil in the country. Canola, corn, and safflower oils followed shortly after that. The low cost of these cooking oils, combined with strategic marketing on the part of the oil manufacturers, made them wildly popular in American kitchens even though their use was unprecedented in human history.
Follow the Money
So how did formerly toxic chemicals suddenly become the leading ingredients of the so-called “heart-healthy” diet? As always, all it takes is to “follow the money.”
In the late 1940s, a small group of cardiologists who were members of the still somewhat new American Heart Association received a $1.5 million donation from Procter & Gamble; thanks to this generous infusion of cash from the makers of Crisco, the AHA now had sufficient funding to grow its national profile as a physician’s organization dedicated to heart health. It also was quick to endorse industrial seed oils, more kindly referred to by now as “vegetable oils,” as a healthier alternative to traditional animal fats.
Soon, many medical organizations, including the National Cholesterol Education Program and the National Institutes of Health, had hopped aboard the anti-animal fat train, echoing the AHA’s advice that people should avoid animal fat and instead consume polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as Crisco and other shortenings, soybean oil, and corn oil. This confluence of events and mutual interests led to the sweeping replacement of natural dietary fats such as lard and butter with unsaturated industrial seed oils, indelibly changing the shape of the American (and eventually, the global) food landscape.
According to Kressel, there are six main reasons why industrial seed oils, or so-called “vegetable oils,” are bad for your health:
- The consumption of industrial seed oils represents an evolutionary mismatch.
- Eating industrial seed oils raises our omega-6-to-omega-3 fatty acid ratios, with significant consequences for our health.
- Industrial seed oils are unstable and oxidize easily.
- They contain harmful additives.
- They’re derived from genetically modified crops.
- When industrial seed oils are repeatedly heated, even more, toxic byproducts are created.
Kresser says the Industrial Revolution brought us incredible efficiencies in production, but that has had a negative impact on the general quality of much of the food available to us. The price that we pay for lower-quality food, including the rise in industrial seed oils, is greater inflammation and the incidence of chronic disease.