The Surprising Toxic Effects of Vegetable Oils

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When it comes to knowing which vegetable oil is best and safest to cook with, many restaurants and so-called health experts don't seem to understand basic biochemistry. That's because even the "safe" vegetable oils used by restaurants and recommended by experts convert to seriously damaged breakdown products that have been linked to heart disease and neurological disorders.

These include the fatty acid-derived toxin 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (HNE). According to researchers, HNE collects in high amounts in polyunsaturated oils that have linoleic acid, which include:

  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

HNE's Effect on the Body

The toxin certainly holds a fatal future for humans. Many studies have linked HNE consumption to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, liver problems and cancer.

Researchers explain that HNE's toxicity stems from the fact that it reacts extremely energetically with biomolecules once it is absorbed into the body by way of food. Also, it reacts with the various kinds of amino groups--proteins, DNA, RNA--affecting basic cellular processes.

Based on these findings, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association recommended that if a person is worried about the health aspects of HNE, they should refrain from heating any oil to the point of smoking and should never reuse the same oil when cooking at home.

One of the most important recommendations, however, would be to avoid eating fried foods at restaurants, as there are no industry-wide rules that govern the choice and maintenance of cooking oils used in restaurants.

Health Central May 6, 2005

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Of all the destructive foods available to us, those made with heated vegetable oils are some of the worst. Make no mistake about it--vegetable oil is not the health food that you were lead to believe it was.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is that modern cultures are consuming these largely omega-6 vegetable oils at levels up to 100X greater than levels previously.

We clearly know that anything that is good for us that is consumed or used in excess can cause a "reverse" effect and actually cause disease. The evidence for this effect seems fairly strong even in lifestyle activities like exercise.

At the turn of the century (a time when heart attacks were a rarity), the average American consumed only 1 pound of vegetable oil per year, while today that amount can exceed 75 pounds. Your Paleolithic ancestors, people who were robustly healthy and suffered little to no chronic disease, did not consume liquid vegetable oil at all.

Excessive consumption of vegetable oil can also contribute to:

This is largely due to the fact that they are highly processed foods and when consumed in massive amounts, as they are by most of us, they seriously distort the important omega-6:3 ratio.

So what's the best oil to cook with?

Hint: It is not olive oil, although olive oil is one of the best oils to use, is especially high in monounsaturated fats and is a great source of squalene and a host of other cardio-protective nutrients.

That said, olive oil should be reserved for your salad, and if you choose to cook your food I would strongly suggest you seriously consider the healthier option, coconut oil. Coconut oil is far less damaged by heat than olive oil and seems to be the ideal choice for cooking.

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