“The Dose Makes the Poison”
Paracelsus (Swiss Physician 1500’s - credited with being the father of toxicology).
Over recent weeks we have discussed how many modern chronic illnesses (diabetes type 2, Alzheimer’s, CVD, stroke, obesity etc) can all be linked to metabolic syndrome. We have also discovered how insulin resistance and inflammation play a hand in most of them too. I also shared with you my “Root Cause of Modern Illness Tree” graphics and speech that I gave to Sir Richard Branson, some astronauts and a handful of select business leaders and nutritional experts. (watch the presentation here:
In this blog, I would like to discuss one particular root cause of chronic illness, seed oils and demonstrate how seriously harmful to health they can be - certainly when consumed frequently. After all, as Paracelsus taught us, “it is the dose that makes the poison”.
Undoubtedly, undeniably, unquestionably, healthy oils must be obtained in optimum quantities to help us all unlock our true health potential. Yet in the westernised world, research has repeatedly demonstrated how our current plate of prosperity, is piled high with ingredients we should be avoiding and derived of essential substances. This results in sub-optimal nutrition, detreating health and in turn ultimately kills 2 out of 3 people. Yes, 68% of people die from heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes: all three heavily influenced by our eating habits, which have evolved via misconceptions, mis-information, and a corporatised manipulation of ingredients. And, as you will read throughout this article, it appears that nothing has changed greater on our plate of prosperity, than the oils/fats that we consume in our modern society.
Are seed oils one of the most significant contributors to inflammation, oxidative stress, chronic illness, obesity, and early death? Read on to find out.
I recorded a podcast with author and health expert Ivor Cumins a few years back, where he firmly points a warning finger at seed oils, saying how they are a massive cause of both insulin resistance and inflammation. Ivor explains how seed oils are essentially damaged molecules, that have no place in the human body. He talks about how they become incorporated in our cell membranes. He tells a story about how in the outback of Australia, scientists placed a tub of seed oils next to a plate of real butter and how all the ants and flies completely devoured all of the real butter, but instinctively knew that the manufactured seed oils were dangerous and left them completely untouched.
But for how long have us humans known that seed oils are unhealthy? Well, more than 100 years! Back in 1918, a curious Doctor by the name of Elmes McCollum conducted an experiment with rats. Half of the group of rats consumed cottonseed oil in their diet, and half were fed butter. We aren’t talking much: less than 6% of their total diet was made from these fats. The mice who were fed the cottonseed oil lived on average 555 days, and those fed the butter lived 1020 days. So, the butter eaters more than doubled the lifespan of the seed oil fed rats. How can it be so different? Well, let’s just start by thinking about the fat soluble vitamins: A, D and K2. They aren’t found in any oils that are derived from seeds or plants. ZERO. So that’s what is missing in terms of good nutrition, but what we are about to learn, is how our omega balance gets completely screwed up too.
Let me clarify what we are talking about here, as it can get very confusing. When I refer to seed oils or vegetable oils, I am talking about all of the following:
Is this a significant problem? How much are we consuming? Well, I don’t have the exact data for the UK, but I do have USA data and to be honest, we tend to follow the USA for better or worse, although normally just a little behind their curve! And as Winston Churchill once said, “you can trust America to do the right thing; but only after it has tried everything else!” Take a look at this chart:
What it is telling us is that in America, over 30% of the daily caloric intake is from vegetable oils. A whopping 80 grams a day. 80 grams of something that according to research on rats back in 1918, cuts life expectancy in half. And for the sceptics, you don’t have to rely on the 1918 research, as more recently there have been many more experiments.
In one piece of research, they fed separate groups of rats an identical diet in terms of both calories and the amount of fat in the diet (59%), and the only thing they altered over a 3-week period was the type of fat consumed. One group whose fat was derived from beef, had an Omega 6 intake of 4.4%, the second cohort fed Safflower oil, had an omega 6 level of 36.6%. Guess what happened to their weight…? Over the experimental period, the meat eaters body fat increased by 10%, but the seed oil cohort’s body fat shot up 54.5%. They literally doubled their body fat percentage! In human terms that would have represented a weight gain of around 66 pounds in just 3 weeks! And yet 36.6% seed oil in their diet is still less than the Standard America Diet (the SAD diet).
And if the above experiment is not enough to put you off seed oils, how about this. A different nutritional experiment showed even more alarming results. This one was a 32-week observational study. Two groups of rats were fed a diet containing 40% fat. Their feed (chow) was their regular diet of real food (no sugar) and identical for both groups, but one group had their Soybean Oil increased from the regular 4% of chow, to 19%. That was the only change. Simply a change of what the fat consisted of. In just 32 weeks, the mice on the 19% soybean oil, weighed a staggering 55% more than the mice on the regular chow! Let me repeat this again. The only change was the type of oil/fat. It appears that seed oils/vegetables can really cause significant weight gain. What’s more, they tested the glucose tolerance of all rats in the experiment and found many of those receiving the soybean oil had become diabetic too! So effectively vegetable oil, piles on the weight and makes you diabetic too! KFC or McDonalds chicken oil-fried nuggets anybody?
And by the way, the brilliantly insightful author Dr Chris Knobbe, also commented on the above experiment, “this 32 week diet caused 31 cancer associated genes to be dysregulated, 5 cancer genes to be upregulated and 6 cancer inhibiting genes to be suppressed”. He then confirms, after 32 weeks on a 19% soybean oil (vegetable oil) 10% linoleic acid diet, many of the rats experienced:
- Visceral Obesity
- Insulin Resistance
- Glucose intolerance
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
- 31 cancer genes dysregulated
In another insightful piece of research looking at heart failure, they added 20% sunflower oil to one cohort of rats and let the other group of rats eat their regular chow. In just 4 weeks, the cohort eating sunflower oil, experienced a huge increase in both blood pressure and heart failure.
Basically, when you compare natural real oils: meat fats, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, butter, ghee; to oils/fats with minimal alteration; to those manufactured seed oils, they are very much chalk and cheese. Take a look at the next 2 images and form your own opinion.
Disclaimer, I am not a scientist. But this above image, taken of the side of a McDonalds lorry, is quite disturbing to me. I am quite sure, if McDonalds used healthy oils such as coconut oil or olive oil, then they wouldn’t be able to fuel their gigantic evil hauling loads with their residue oils (evil of course is in my own opinion). Yes, it is totally wonderful they are recycling their used oils, but do you feel safe consuming biodesiel that can be used to fuel their trucks? As far as I am concerned, vegetable oils/seed oils are little more than toxic waste. Yes, cheap to produce, yes extends shelf life, yes increases corporate profits, but at what cost? Human life?
Let’s now look at oils/fats individually:
Soybean and Corn Oils
I am pretty sure you have already guessed that oils from soybeans and corn are not good for our health. Not only are they extracted from genetically modified crops, but they are extremely high in Omega 6. When we heat these oils, they become easily damaged, and as a result can clog up our arteries. And as we go through the rest of this article, while some experts and opinion makers might point to a perceived lack of randomised clinical trials on the effects of these seed oils, it would be absurd or ill-informed if they tried to repute the fact that these oils do in fact oxidise and are therefore harmful.
While nuts themselves can rightly be called a superfood, sadly when their oils are extracted without all of the other nutrients and fibres they become exposed to air and sadly oxidise – and oxidised oils are detrimental to our health. Plus, just like seed oils, the process used to extract nut oils is often extremely unnatural.
I know I have mentioned this many times before, but the human body is looking for a balance of omega 3 to omega 6 of roughly one to one. Why? Because omega 3’s job is to be anti-inflammatory and omega 6 has a role to create inflammation. Why would we ever need inflammation? Because if we get a torn ligament, injury or viral infection, inflammation comes to protect us. But with the modern diet, we now have chronic inflammation all the time, created by the foods that we are eating. We really do need a diet where our Omegas are well-balanced. Seed oils sound healthy, don’t they? Sadly, they’re not. Their Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios, can be out-of-kilter by as much as 500:1 (cotton seed for example per 100g has 50.1g of omega 6 and just 0.1g of omega 3). That is dreadful. Here is a small extract from the data you can discover on our FREE Primal Living App:
But even worse than the imbalance of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory elements, is the danger caused in how these oils are extracted. The commercialised method is less about nature and nurture, and more about science, technology, and highly toxic processes. While our body thrives on olive oil, coconut oil, and fats from meats; seed oils are often chemically extracted, bleached, and deodorised in a way that in my opinion is not fit for human consumption.
Trans Fats and Hydrogenated oils
In the early 1900s, German chemist Wilhelm Normann discovered that you could add hydrogen to cheap fats and make them even cheaper. Plus, when added to almost any packaged food, this deadly chemical cocktail massively extended the product’s shelf life too.
In a book titled “Smart Fats”, Dr Steven Masley and Jonny Bowden PhD, CNS, wrote, “Artery-clogging trans-fat, which we have likened to embalming fluid that turns our tissues to plastic, is a killer, pure and simple... great for shelf life, but not for your life”. Why are they so unhealthy? They went on to describe how (I paraphrase here), by raising the level of the potentially negative type of cholesterol LDL (low-density lipoprotein), while diminishing the good guys, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), they start to block our arteries. Before being hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, to solidify these nasty oils, they are often infused with chemicals. These cause havoc with our immune system, raise insulin levels and are most likely responsible for many types of cancer. Where are these life-shortening oils found? Breads, cakes, junk food, fast food, fried food, biscuits, crackers, microwave meals, soups, donuts, microwave popcorn, margarine, crisps and virtually every type of packaged food we can buy in a supermarket.
Remember the game we played as kids, where we were given 20 questions to guess what someone was thinking of? Remember how the first question was always, “is it animal, vegetable or mineral”? If you’d had vegetable oil as your subject, you’d get that very first question wrong. Why? Because as it turns out, vegetable oils are not derived from vegetables! You see, marketers - in an attempt to differentiate them from those oils derived from animals (and of course they are not minerals) - designated them as vegetable oils. But be sure about one thing, they neither contain nor are derived from vegetables! Even worse they are created from corn and soybeans, two ingredients that are in no way either primally acceptable or going to help you to unlock your heath potential.
Before we move on, in a video chat I had with author and health expert Ivor Cummins, he basically called it, “Satan’s triad, - excessive sugars, refined carbs and vegetable oils, are the main culprits of modernised ill heath”. See our conversation here…
The Corporatized Bulls**t World We Sadly Live In
Just like how Swarovski crystal is not natural crystal, but a man-made glass bauble; vegetable oil is not from vegetables. Just like Swarovski have sold billions by (in my opinion) mislabelling and glorifying its glass as crystal, the oil industry has misled us into believing that vegetable oil is made of vegetables and therefore must be healthy. Wrong! As in, really wrong!
Ever since the birth of the low-fat diet – a diet I personally followed for more than two decades, which kept me overweight and gave me a foggy brain – vegetable fats have been praised for being unsaturated, and therefore good for the heart. This is simply incorrect. Vegetable oils are dominant in Omega 6 which, on its own without the balance of Omega 3, causes inflammation. And, as you will discover in some of my other articles, inflammation is the catalyst to nearly all Western diseases.
The Vegetable Oil - Cancer Link
Around 100 years ago, vegetable oils simply did not exist. Traditionally we used natural fats such as lard, beef dripping (tallow) and butter; and cancer was very rare. Then in the 1960’s, vegetable oils began to be marketed as a supposed healthier alternative. However, today, one in two people living in Britain will develop cancer (according to Cancer Research Data) and it’s almost impossible to avoid vegetable oils as they are found in virtually all packaged food and ready meals. And because they are super cheap to produce, it is also why you’ll find empty barrels lurking behind many of your local restaurants.
According to Nutritionist Maria Cross, the most common cancers associated with vegetable oils are; breast, prostate and colon, and also lung cancer could be potentially added to this list. How? Well, while there are potentially several pathways that these oils take that may lead to cancer, one link is that vegetable oils contain a substance called acrolein. Acrolein is also found in cigarettes, with a concentration of between 25 and 140 milligrams; whereas cooking oil researchers have found that the concentration can be as high as… get ready for this… 1000 to 1500 milligrams in a portion of commercialised French fries!
Evaluating the data on acrolein, expert and author Dr Chris Knobbe, suggested that a large portion of McDonald’s French Fries could be the “equivalent of smoking up to 83 cigarettes”. Just a slight disclaimer from me, some cigarettes do contain less acrolein, so the harm could also actually be the equivalent of smoking 17 cigarettes. But don’t stop eating just the McDonalds fries, because a similar effect will occur from eating many packaged and fast foods. Simple message: to better look after your heath, trust no packaged food or corporate created meal and COOK REAL FOOD AT HOME.
Dr Chris Knobbe also comments on acrolein suggesting, “this looks like child abuse does it not?... Because when a two-year-old boy eats these French fries, he’s poisoned for the next two years. Why is that? Because the half-life of these oils in cell membranes is 600 to 680 days!”
In his book Toxic Oil (which on the cover states, ‘Why vegetable oil will kill you & how to save yourself ’), David Gillespie writes, “Vegetable oil makes you exceedingly vulnerable to cancer. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you consume takes you one step closer to a deadly (and irreversible) outcome. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you feed to your children is doing the same to them”.
Here is a quote from Cancer.gov; “The major food sources of acrylamide are French Fries and potato chips; crackers, bread and cookies; breakfast cereals…. Acrylamide levels in food vary widely depending on the manufacture, the cooking time, and the method and temperature of the process” – Cancer.gov. And here is a quote from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “Acrylamide, acrolein, and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) are food-borne toxicants produced during the thermal processing of food”.
And if you would like to stop reading right now, let me clearly outline which oils/fats I recommend you consume:
The Healthy Oils
Sources of good fats include virtually all natural fats and oils, including omega 3, coconut oil, salmon, nuts, avocado, olives, olive oils, lamb, beef, pork, duck and organic butter.
Deadly fats to avoid include all the newly manufactured oils such as trans-fats, vegetable oils and seed oils.
To summarise, you want to best avoid fats and oils in processed and packaged foods and most importantly avoid, vegetable oils, which as we have learnt, are rarely derived from vegetables. Let me say this again; it’s all marketing hype, vegetable oils are not made from vegetables!
The Smoking Point Of Oils
While choosing the right oil is ultra-important, it is also necessary to understand the smoking point of each oil. If we overheat certain oils/fats then not only can we kill off their goodness, but we also potentially turn them toxic. As a rule of thumb, we don’t want to make our fats and oils smoke. Therefore, depending on what you are cooking, you are going to need a few different healthy oils in your fridge. And as oils are sensitive to light, if you don’t have sufficient space in your fridge, keep them in a cupboard.
In the chart below, you will see that there are just 2 seed oils that seem to go against all I have just said. But while current research suggests these 2 are ok for human consumption, my recommendation is to constantly keep one eye on the latest research. But for now, organic flaxseed and macadamia oil seem to be ok.
Eat Naturally to Balance Your Omega’s
As we discussed a few weeks back, it is vital for good health that we do our best to balance our Omega 3 and Omega 6 levels. Omega 6 has a very important job to do on the odd occasion when we sprain an ankle, break a leg, or catch a virus. To protect the affected area, its job is to create inflammation. Omega 6 is therefore pro-inflammatory. Omega 3 on the other hand is anti-inflammatory. Its job is to reduce the inflammation when it is no longer necessary for your protection.
An ideal diet will be well-balanced in Omega 3 and Omega 6. If we eat organic beef, from grass-fed cows, then the ratio is naturally balanced and is close to 1 to 1. But if the meat is highly processed, the ratio can often be out by as much as 20 to 1. Most packaged food is also very much weighted in favour of omega 6, as it is found in cheap ingredients and oils. So much so, that in the modern corporatized world, on average we are consuming around 20 times more omega 6 than omega 3. This disproportional dangerous imbalance means that many people are eating their way to a permanent state of inflammation.
To better understand the ratios, I would recommend you download the Primal Living App. If you then search our food database (which is probably the most comprehensive on the planet), nestled amongst a complete nutritional break down of each food and ingredient, is the amount of omega 3 and 6.
Ultra-Processed Foods & Ready Meals
Obviously if you are a huge food manufacturer of processed foods or ready meals, you are going to use the fats and oils that are the absolute cheapest to get hold of. So let me say it as bluntly as I can, if what you are eating is in a packet with a label, if it contains fat or oil, you can bet your last penny on the fact that it contains unhealthy oils. Period!
Felicity Lawrence the author of the brilliantly insightful book, “Not on the Label”, writes “Ready meals like other processed foods, have typically been high in processed fats – generally derived from soya, palm or rapeseed oil – processed sugars – derived not from just sugar but also from corn. Large numbers of them contain processed starch – also generally derived from corn. In fact, a quarter of all processed foods are made with corn in some form and two thirds of all processed foods contain soya or its derivatives. Take a look yourself at the website of the US Corn Refiners Association and you will be amazed at what their so called “carbohydrate chemists can do”.”
The Diabetes Link
Now of course I could have introduced the following Diabetes infographic in either my inflammation blog, insulin resistance blog or almost any of the posts I’ve made recently. But its trajectory more perfectly tracks the growth in consumption of seed and vegetable oils.
The Truth about Fats
Over the past 60 to 70 years, people have been blaming saturated fats as a major cause of heart disease; but, if in addition you shouldn’t now consume most of the seed oil and vegetable oils, then what on earth are the fats you can eat? Well, it now turns out that the saturated fats that we consume have virtually no effect, certainly in a negative way on heart health. If we overlaid the graph from earlier with saturated fats and heart disease, will we see that the consumption of saturated fat has stayed pretty stable, and heart disease has grown more in line with the consumption of vegetable oils – NOT SATURATED FATS.
As if you have read any of my books, you may be aware that I have over the years spent many months staying with indigenous Maasai tribes in both Kenya and Tanzania. And I can tell from first-hand experience, that they have a diet very high in saturated fat. They regularly consume a diet based on meat, milk and regularly drink whole pints of cow’s blood. But talk to a Maasai about heart disease and they have never heard of it at all. The whole concept is alien to them.
In the photo you can see who looks the healthiest, and it certainly isn’t me. A funny true story here. This photo was taken in 2011, when I was in a very unhealthy state. One morning I got up early to go jogging and Philip (the gentleman to my right,) shouted at me saying it was unsafe to leave the huts on my own. But I still went for my morning 6-mile run. Later that afternoon they caught a goat and cooked it. As they handed it to me, I removed the fat and tucked in. Philip turned to me and said, “Mr Steve, you big western men, you do that running thing and remove the fat from your meat, so that you can have big belly and be big Western man”. I laughed and said, “no Philip I do that so I can look lean and strong like you and your friends”.
I will never ever forget his comment and it was a turning point for me in terms of my lifestyle and health, Philip smiled and said, “Mr Steve it is not working”.
According to George Mann who analysed the diet of the awesomely athletic and strong Maasai (and yes Phillip was that tall), in far more detail than I did, he discovered that 66% of their calorie intake came from saturated animal fat. While in America, for decades people have been told not to eat more than 5 or 6% saturated fat as it causes heart disease. Again, a disease the Maasai haven’t yet witnessed.
Conclusion on oils and fats
How do we rebalance our omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) with omega 6 (inflammatory) consumption? It’s simply a rule of 3:
- Don’t eat packaged foods
- Don’t eat takeaways
- Don’t cook with seed or vegetable oils
I must admit in all the research I have done on health and all the books, blogs, and videos I have created; nothing is as black and white as the trilogy of don’ts above. That said, I hate ending on a negative note, so let’s look at the positives.
- Cook at home with real oils
- Insist your restaurant use real oils to cook your meal
I am serious with my second point too. Go into your local restaurant and tell them you are allergic to seed oils, vegetable oils and tell them you will likely die if you eat them (and as you now know it is the truth) and ask them to use olive oil or butter. Tell them if they don’t have them in the kitchen, to go and get it for you. If not politely inform them, you will need to leave their restaurant through the nearest exit and by the way you will be leaving a negative online review too!
If you want to unlock your heath potential, add life to your years and be as lean and strong as my Maasai friends, then just eat natural foods and real fats. And remember the mathematical fact that it often takes one or two decades to see the results of eating processed foods, seed/vegetable oils to start experiencing the effects. I call it the “toxic nutritional jet lag effect”. So don’t think for one minute that processed foods are not having an effect. You won’t notice its dangerous affects as you serve up the meals, but you will be laying the seeds (pardon the pun) for future problems. Don’t beat yourself up though, I have previously done the same with all my children too (and sadly – due to pressure - occasionally still do).
While all that I’ve written above seems to make a lot of sense, there is not yet lots of controlled randomised studies on humans. Therefore, there will be people, especially those with vested interests, that may refute some of the text. Even if some of the content above is not eventually found to be correct, I will end this article with a comment from a good doctor friend of mine Dr James DiNicolantonio (it is an extract from my book Fat & Furious), which I do feel can be 100% backed up by science.
Dr James DiNicolantonio
What are the bad and ugly fats?
The ugly fats are the trans-fats, where they oxidise the seed oils to make a more solid fat, high in omega 6, like your soybean oil and corn, a.k.a. vegetable oil.
They are a huge part of the American diet and the UK diet too. When you guys cook fish and chips, they are very commonly deep-fried in these omega 6 oils. And the reason why they are bad for you is, one, they are very susceptible to oxidative stress because they have so many double bonds which are very susceptible to free radical attack. The second thing is that they are low in antioxidants, which compounds the problem. When you extract oil from these tiny seeds, you have to use a high amount of heat, hexane and toxins, which even start oxidising the oils before our bodies start oxidising it.
The best fats are your extra virgin olive oil, as well as your marine omega 3, from either algae or from fish. MCTs, medium-chain triglycerides, are also very healthy fats, the body burns these fats even better than long- chain saturated fats, and you find these in coconut oils.
Further Recommended Reading:
- Fats That Heal Fats, That Kill by udo Erasmus
- Omega 6–Apokalypse. Seed oils as cause of cancer, diabetes & heart attacks by Dr Chris Knobbe
- Seed Oils by Tucker Goodrich
- Toxic Oil by David Gillespie