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The Seed Oil Epidemic: How Everyday Oils Are Harming Your Body


podcast episode cover art for The Seed Oil Epidemic: How Everyday Oils Are Harming Your Body

Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast has a NEW host! Please welcome Dr. James Odell, the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years.

Join Dr. Odell for a quick dive into the alarming rise of seed oils in our diets. The once balanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1 to 1 has now shifted to a concerning 20-to-1, linked to health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more. Discover the structural differences between saturated and unsaturated fats, the pitfalls of seed oils, and their impact on your well-being. Dr. Odell wraps up with actionable tips on avoiding toxic seed oils for a healthier you!



Transcript for The Seed Oil Epidemic: How Everyday Oils Are Harming Your Body

Dr. James Odell: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Science of Self-Healing podcast. For health and wellness knowledge from a different perspective. Produced by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI. We are your source for unparalleled information about how you can naturally support your body's ability to regulate, adapt, regenerate, and self-heal. I'm your host, Dr. James Odell, the medical and executive director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years. And remember, this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the direct care of a qualified health professional who oversees and provides unique and individual care. The information here is to broaden our different perspectives and should not be construed as medical advice or treatment. Let's get started.


In this podcast, I'm going to talk about the growing concern of consuming industrially processed seed oils in our diet and what makes them bad, how to avoid them, and how you can live without them to regain your health.


Industrial seed oils are in nearly everything. If you use common cooking oils, or if you eat prepackaged foods or dine out at most restaurants, you probably are eating them every day. And you wouldn't be alone.


Globally, seed oil production has increased more than 16 fold since 1909. It has doubled in the last 20 years and is expected to continue its exponential growth. In the United States, the consumption of soybean oil alone has grown one thousandfold since 1900. This increase in industrial seed oil consumption has created many chronic diseases. In fact, a growing number of experts are now considering these to be the main contributors to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, poor brain functioning, Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, and many other health conditions.


Industrial seed oils are particularly rich in the omega-6 fatty acids. Known as linoleic acid. It is a polyunsaturated fat that humans didn't consume in high quantities until the last hundred years or so.


Even though the body does need small amounts of linoleic acid to function, the amount currently consumed by most people far exceeds those needs.


The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the brain is usually between like one to one to one to two, which is in agreement with the data from the evolutionary aspects of diet, genetics and animal studies. Therefore, a ratio of one to one to one to two omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be the target ratio for health.


However, consumption of omega-6 linoleic acid has sharply risen over the past few decades, and it's been shifted from that ideal ratio from 1:1, or 1:2 to a ratio now of 20:1. This growing imbalance in omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has been linked to many conditions such as chronic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and much, much more.


Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for the body to function correctly. They make compounds called eicosanoids, which are important hormones that control the immune system, nervous system and other hormones.


However, the eicosanoids from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids act differently. Eicosanoids from omega-3 fatty acids generally promote heart health, while eicosanoids from omega-6 increase immune response, inflammation and even blood pressure.


Thus, although your body needs both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, particularly the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, the omega-6 tend to be more inflammatory, whereas the omega-3 S tend to be more anti inflammatory.


Abundant evidence also suggests industrial seed oils are likely unsafe for long term consumption in the quantities most people eat today.


The term vegetable oil and seed oil are often used interchangeably, but really have different meanings. To explore what the best evidence says about seed oil safety and possible toxicity, we need to start by defining these terms.


Vegetable oils are any oils or fats derived from crops, including fruits, grains, nuts and seeds. So this is really a broad category that includes all crop based oils.


Seed oils, also called industrial seed oils, are particularly a category of vegetable oils that are derived strictly from seeds. Seed oils are refined from the seeds of crops, often using industrial methods including solvents, high heat and large amounts of mechanical pressure. After the seeds are gathered, they are heated at extreme temperatures and that helps to oxidize these fats, which is not good. This creates byproducts that are harmful to your health.


Before discussing how seed oils affect your health, let's talk about the structural differences between saturated and unsaturated fats.


Structurally saturated fats are stable and less flexible than unsaturated fats. This is because they are saturated with hydrogen atoms, making them solid at room temperature, able to withstand high heat and therefore more stable.


On the other hand, unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds. Double bonds refers to an area of the fatty acid chain where hydrogens are missing. This creates more flexibility and it makes them more susceptible to oxidation or rancidity. Thus, they are refrigerated to slow down this oxidation.


When there is more than one double bond, the unsaturated fat is called polyunsaturated, named after the first bond on the chain. For example, if the first double bond is on the third link of the chain, then it's omega-3 fatty acid. If the first double bond is on the 6th link of the chain, it is called an omega-6 fatty acid. The more double bonds, the more susceptible the fat is to oxidation via exposure to light, air and heat.


Your body requires both saturated fats and unsaturated fats to function. However, newer sources of fats like seed oils can upset the natural balance of fats in the body and may contribute to inflammation and health problems.


For seed oils to get from the seed to the bottle, manufacturers use high temperatures and harsh chemicals, often toxic chemicals, resulting in harmful byproducts called trans fats. In many cases, synthetic antioxidants are added in an attempt to preserve the shelf life of the unstable fats in the seed oils. These synthetic antioxidants like TBHQ, BHA, or BHT, are known carcinogens.


High levels of omega-6 fats create an imbalance and a need for omega-3 fats.


Throughout history, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 was about one to one. Again, it is estimated now it is closer to 20:1. So in order to regain this balance, one of the things we can do is supplement omega-3s from fish or from algae oil, if you're opposed to eating fish oil. So this is the ratio we really need a 1:1 or a 1:2 in order to achieve health. While you need dietary omega-6 fatty acids in extremely small amounts, excessive amounts of linoleic acid consumption can trigger a cascade of inflammation in the body.


Okay, here's a short list of the primary dangers of excessive consumption of these industrially processed seed oils.


First, they are inherently unstable when they are exposed to heat, light or pressure. This instability leads to a significant oxidation of the polyunsaturated fats, resulting in an elevation of free radicals within the body. This creates excessive oxidative stress, or what is also called free radical oxidative pathology.


Also, the cell membranes are made up of fat membranes called a lipid bilayer that allow nutrients into the cell and waste out of the cell. This fatty membrane also protects the cell. Cell membranes need saturated fats for stability and structure, while unsaturated fats allow for fluidity and flexibility. Thus, excessive omega-6 fatty acids can disrupt the composition of the cell membranes.


The omega-6 fat linoleic acid is the most abundant fatty acid in LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, and is extremely vulnerable to oxidation. It is one of the very first fatty acids to oxidize. Generally, LDL cholesterol isn't a concern unless it is oxidized. Oxidized linoleic acid metabolites are recognized by the immune cells and can recruit monocytes and neutrophils. These are different types of white cells to participate in atherosclerotic lesions, thus plaque. These oxidized linoleic acid metabolites are considered dangerous because they can activate the innate immune cells that are involved in the process of creating atherosclerotic formation, thus creating plaque in the arteries.


Another danger of industrial seed oils is the presence of trans fatty acids. Small amounts of trans fats are found in the natural world, and consuming even moderate levels of trans fats can wreak havoc in the cell membranes.


When polyunsaturated fats are heated, their double bonds become vulnerable to disturbance. Unlike saturated fats that are protected by hydrogen all around, unsaturated fats can become flipped in their orientation, creating a new structure. And each time an oil is reused for frying, its trans fat content increases. When industrial seed oils are repeatedly heated, as restaurants do in fryers, even more toxic byproducts are created.


Thus, in the processing of seed oils, harmful chemicals are added to enhance the yield and promote the shelf life of the product. Specifically Hexane. H-E-X-A-N-E. Hexane is a commonly used chemical that enhances the extraction yield in oils, but remains present in small amounts in the finished product. In addition to its industrial use in extracting oils from seeds, hexane is also used as a solvent in glues, varnishes and inks and is used as an effective cleaning agent in the printing industry. Hexane is toxic.


Another concerning issue is that most industrial seed oils are derived from genetically modified crops, crops that have been treated with the carcinogenic, herbicide, Roundup and other pesticides.


To promote a longer shelf life for these seed oils, many manufacturers add a chemical preservative that is really meant to combat the oxidative damage. In nature antioxidants defend against this oxidative damage in the factories. Industrial chemicals like TBHQ, BHT and BHA attempt to mimic the natural antioxidants. But these chemicals have been classified as carcinogens and are subject to severe restrictions in Europe but not in the United States.


Now, I'd like to take you into the eight industrial toxic seed oils which are canola, corn, cotton seed oil, soy oil, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed and rice brand. I'd like to discuss a few of these briefly.


Let's start with canola oil which is derived from rape seed. Most of it is derived from a genetically engineered grapeseed that is tolerant to the herbicide Roundup. It was first introduced to Canada in 1995 as Roundup Ready. While rapeseed contains large amounts of erucic acid which is known to cause health problems. As a result, the canola plant was developed from rapeseed in order to use it as a food grade canola oil with lower erucic acid levels. So canola oil is refined, bleached and deodorized because consumers expect cooking oil to have a lightened color with no flavor.


Actually, soybean, palm oil and canola oil as well as corn oil all go through this same process of bleaching and deodorizing and refining.


Canola oil is highly processed as well as many of the other oils.


Corn oil is also highly processed and is mostly made from GMO crops. During the process of extracting corn oil from corn, many vitamins and minerals are lost.


Cotton seed oil is also a high pesticide crop. Cotton seed oil is highly refined in order to remove the gossypol. This is a natural occurring toxin in the seed oil that works to protect the plant from insects. Cotton seed oil is often used in many packaged items. That's why we must read packages closely to make sure they don't contain these types of seed oils.


Soybean oil consumption is increasing widely and parallels a rise in obesity. It's rich in unsaturated fats, especially linoleic acid. Soybean oil is assumed to be healthy, yet it induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver and mice.


Both sunflower and safflower are probably less troublesome, but if consumed excessively can cause many problems, so they should be used sparingly.


Sunflower oil contains a particular type of monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which is thought to be particularly beneficial in which it is shown to have a positive effect on the inflammation in the body and may support several aspects of heart health. In fact, you can now find sunflower oil brands that offer high oleic acid varieties thanks to the extraction process that helps preserve it more. Again, though, you do not want to consume this in large quantities.


Safflower is related to the sunflower family. It's a thistle-like plant native to China, India, Iran and Egypt. However, it's cultivated really all over the world, including North America, mainly for its oil and also it is used in animal feed.


There are two varieties of safflower oil, the high linoleic acid and the high oleic. High linoleic safflower oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats, while high oleic safflower oil contains more monounsaturated fats. The more common type of safflower oil on the market is the high oleic acid kind. It is used because it's heat stable cooking oil, especially for fried food like French fries and chips. It also contains vitamin E.


Safflower oil has a high smoke point around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, safflower oil has a higher smoke point than almost any of the other commonly used oils such as canola oil. Generally, fats that have a higher smoke point are used for sauteing and frying. Again, if you choose to consume sunflower or safflower oil, use them sparingly.


So what do we use instead of these seed oils?


Well, there are many types of oils that are vegetable oils that are quite good. Vegetable oils like avocado, coconut, and olive oil, are known for their slightly lower linoleic acid content and decent smoke points. However, each of these comes with compromises.


Avocado oil boasts of a higher smoke point between 428 and 482 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a great choice for high heat cooking. Avocado oil has one of the highest levels of healthy monounsaturated fats of all the oils and it is low in polyunsaturated fats. This combination makes avocado oil a healthy heart choice.


Coconut oil is low in polyunsaturated fats containing only 2% linoleic acid and fairly heat stable with a smoke point of around 375 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it does have a strong coconut taste and can make all your food taste the same over time. I particularly like the coconut taste, but some people do not.


Olive oil is known for its high monounsaturated fat content and relatively high smoke point. Also, it is resistant to damaged oxidation during frying compared to most vegetable oils. For olive oil to be certified extra virgin, it must first be cold pressed. Cold pressed indicates that the olives never exceed a certain temperature during the pressing process, which ensures maximum quality. Beware, however, because 80% of a lot of imported olive oil is counterfeit or adulterated with other cheaper vegetable oils. So you want to make sure of the company and do your research.


Okay, here are five cooking oils that you do not want to use for high heat cooking. They could be used in salad dressing and other types of food, but you really do not want to use them for high heat cooking.


These are flaxseed oil, walnut oil, pistachio oil, hemp seed oil, and pumpkin seed oil.


So in review, what's wrong with industrial seed oils?


Well, industrial seed oils all can play a significant role in chronic inflammatory diseases. The problem really lies in the balance of omega-3s to omega 6s. Western diets often exhibit an imbalance by being excessively high in omega-6, prevalent in so many processed foods, and insufficient in omega-3s. Lacking omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance leads to a heightened inflammation in the body, as I've mentioned before, while the optimum ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid is considered to be like 1:1 or 1:2, the typical Western diet is estimated to be around 20:1. Eating industrial seed oils raises our omega-6s to omega-3 fatty acid ratios, and this has significant health consequences. Also, industrial seed oils are unstable and oxidize easily. This creates free radicals in the body. They're also processed with harmful chemicals, and these harmful chemicals end up in the byproducts of the oil. Evidence indicates omega-6 vegetable oils as a causative factor in atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, macular degeneration, and numerous other diseases.


So avoiding industrially processed seed oils is not easy, but certainly doable. To achieve a better balance of omega-6 to omega-3s, be aware of and start eliminating the following food items. Eliminate fried foods, fast foods, highly processed foods, and baked goods. In other words, just about every restaurant and much of the grocery store items.

So the first challenge you'll need to make is throw out all of your seed oils in your pantry. Notice how sticky and smelly they are. Just throw them out. Don't look back.


And eat more of these foods. Chia seeds, flax seeds, wild caught seafood and grass fed and finished meats high omega-3 eggs algae supplement with omega-3s from quality sustainable products.


Do your research here. In looking for quality omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil or algae oil.


It is also important to start shopping by reading labels.


Shop mainly the perimeter of the store with the majority of your foods coming from the produce, meat and dairy departments and read every label. You'll be very surprised how much oil these seed oils are in your products.


The third change you'll need to do is to cook more at home. Substitute the seed oils for avocado, coconut, butter, ghee, and olive oil.


You could also look on Instagram for healthy recipes and you'll be amazed how much better you'll be eating. You'll probably end up also saving a lot of money.


All right, this concludes our episode of The Science of self Healing. I wish everyone a happy holiday season and tune in please, again in another two weeks for another episode of The Science of Self Healing. Till then, be well.


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