Separating ‘fat’ from fiction. The good, the bad and the ugly.
From the time of the cottage press to the mass production of oils much has changed in the food industry. Some oil processing can offer fresh oils, others will change the chemical structure of the oil and turn them into an oil that kills. What is important to note is that the good oils rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) are unstable and last fresh a few days. With the start of mass production, many healthy and unstable omega 3 oils were replaced for more stable, less healthy omega 6, upsetting the ratio of the omega 3 and 6 that is important to health. Their cofactors, that help these oils be absorbed better, were removed with chemical extraction and chemical solvents (hexane, heptane) were added. Natural nutrients in oils were converted to dangerous substances: trans-fatty acids, polymers, aldehydes, etc. The processes used to refine oils produce dozens of different new substances by random processes that cannot be controlled. It was because of this that in 1987 Udo Erasmus started a natural oil business with new guidelines for machinery design, packaging materials, shelf dating refrigeration and guidelines for making oils with human health in mind. His methods for pressing oils produce oils that are protected from light and air with custom made modifications for existing presses. ‘Fresh edible oils require a great deal of care that the mega oil industry is not willing to do… most manufacturers know nothing about the biology human health oil’ he asserts.
In this blog, we will look at how oils are mass produced, the different methods of extraction and how the end product damages our health. We will also learn to read a label. Lastly, we will look with detail at the best and worst oils for our health.
From seed to oil
It all starts with a seed. In mass oil production, seeds are first mechanically cleaned, then cooked for up to 2 hours at around 248F to make the oil easier to extract. This exposes the oil to air, starting the process of deterioration. The cooked seeds then are pressed mechanically in an expeller press. The higher the pressure the higher the oil yield but this increases the temperature too. Oil pressed this way may be filtered, then bottled and sold in natural food stores as natural unrefined ‘crude’ oil.
Another method for extracting oils is dissolving them in a solvent like hexane or heptane (gasoline) at 131 to 149 F under constant agitation. The solvent is then evaporated at a temperature of 302F and reused. These solvents are highly flammable and traces can be found in the oil. This final product can be sold as ‘unrefined’, but it can also be processed by several further steps: degumming, refining, bleaching and deodorizing to produce refined oils. All these steps use dangerous chemicals and remove the nutrients from the oils. To put them on shelves in supermarkets, these oils can have synthetic antioxidants added like BHT, BHA, TBHQ, etc. instead of using the natural antioxidant present before all the processing.
Hydrogenation is a process introduced on a large scale in the 1930’s for making margarines and shortenings (cheaper substitutes for butter and lard, respectively). It introduces many altered fat substances in our diet. The big industry’s reason for this process is to provide cheap spreadable (plastic) products. Fully refined oils can be artificially saturated to harden them into spreadable products. Labels do not include all this information, but say something like ‘free of cholesterol’, ‘low in saturates’, ‘for frying, baking and cooking’ or ‘high in polyunsaturates’.
In hydrogenation, oils are reacted under pressure with hydrogen gas at high temperatures (248F-410F). This is done in the presence of a metal catalyst for 6-8 hours, usually nickel and aluminum, both of which can be found leaching.
In complete hydrogenation all the good essential fatty acids have been removed. They call this fat ‘safe’ because it contains no trans-fatty acids to interfere with EFA activities in your body and does not spoil, resulting in a long shelf ‘life’. Hydrogenated oil can be fried, baked, roasted or boiled without further damage. All this is highly toxic but it is a manufacturer’s dream: an un-spoilable substance that lasts forever. You can find this kind of oils on products like chocolate (hard but soft enough to melt in your mouth). They are also mixed with natural EFA containing liquid oils to make a ‘vegetable spread ‘which is like margarine but free of trans-fatty acids.
When the process of hydrogenation is not brought to completion a product with many intermediate substances results. Scientists have barely scratched the surface of studying changes induced in fats and oils by partial hydrogenation. Hydrogenation destroys omega 3 very rapidly and omega 6 more slightly. It is impossible to control the chemical outcome of the process and the quantities of each different kind of altered substance that will be produced. The reason is it allows cheap oils to be turned into semi-liquid, plastic, or solid fats that compete with butter in ‘mouth feel’, texture, spreadability, and shelf life. The low cost of raw materials allows margarine to be sold at a much lower price than butter, sales generate good profits with money left over for massive advertising campaigns.
Partial hydrogenation produces margarines, shortenings, shortening oils and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These products contain large quantities of trans-fatty acids and other altered fat substances some of which are known to be detrimental to health because they interfere with normal biochemical processes. Among other things, they increase cholesterol, decrease beneficial high density lipoprotein (HDL), interfere with our liver’s detoxification system and interfere with EFA function.
The oil in margarines and shortenings have all the protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, lecithin, phytosterols, EFAs, etc. removed, so you are eating a dead food which in many occasions contain toxic substances.
Trans-fatty acids are produced by high temperatures and hydrogenation that turn refined oils into margarines, shortening, shortening oils and partially hydrogenated (stiffened) vegetable oils.
Fractionation and trans-esterification
These are two recent processing techniques that served industrial producers to make the oils easier to work with but add no nutritional value to an oil. The starting point of these materials are always fully refined, deodorized, bland oils.
Fractionation is when you separate an oil into 2 or 3 different triglycerides that have different fatty acid composition, for example coconut oils can be fractionated into a harder more saturated fraction that stays solid at room temperature.
What are the effects on our health?
The main side effect of hydrogenation in our health is the increase in food additives. Just hydrogenation brings twice as many food additives into our diet as all other food additives from all food sources combined. The author has observed that with reduction in EFAs and increase in altered fatty acids in our diets, fatty degeneration has risen to epidemic proportions in 90 years in spite of all medical advances, especially cardiovascular disease which rose 300%.
In food products about 1/3 of all edible oil produced is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oils end up in baked goods, confections and snacks such as potato chips where hydrogenated oils help give the product its crispness. Without hydrogenated oils potato chips would be limp and they wouldn’t be the popular snack they are today.
How does all this affect the properties of oils?
All these different methods to mass produce oils not only affect our health, they also alter the oils:
- Misfits: to explain this we can think of tinker toys, the pieces have to have a certain shape to fit together. That is how fats are supposed to fit onto enzymes and membranes to do their job. Trans-fatty acids cannot fit properly into enzymes and membrane structures in our body, so the oil cannot do the job it is supposed to do.
- Melting points. Natural non-sticky liquid oils change to sticky trans-fats. The first melt at 55F, the second at 111F so they stay solid at room and body temperatures.
- Dispersal. Natural oils are more dispersed, their molecules tend to repel one another. Unnatural trans-fatty acids are stickier. They make platelets stickier, increasing the likelihood of a clot in a small blood vessel causing strokes, heart attacks or circulatory occlusions in other organs such as lungs, extremities, and sense organs.
- Breakdown. The rate at which our enzymes break down trans-fatty acids is slower than the rate at which they break down normal fatty acids. This is important for our heart because fatty acids are fuel for our heart. Trans-fatty acid consumption may lower the heart’s ability to perform. In a case of increased activity, stress lowered heart performance can have fatal consequences.
- Holes in membranes. The job of healthy fats is to protect the cell membrane, which acts as a barrier for cells to stay alive and healthy. By changing the cell’s permeability, molecules that would ordinarily stay out of cells can get in, allergic reactions and immune reactions can result.
- Electrical short-circuits. Trans-fatty acids have their electrical nature changed. Healthy EFAs and their highly unsaturated derivatives are involved in energy and electron exchange reactions that also involve sulphur-rich proteins, oxygen and light. Trans-fatty acids are unable to participate in these vital reactions, worst, they interfere because they almost fit but not quite. Like in a car, when a spark plug has too wide of a gap, the spark is unable to jump this gap, this prevents the car from working.
- Energy flow. Life is energy, it flows in our body via electrons that move across molecules specifically for that purpose. Extremely precise structural and spatial arrangements of atoms and their electrons are required. When we change the molecular architecture of our body by introducing molecules with wrong shape (remember the tinker toys), size and properties they do not fit and throw the flow of life’s currents off course. Any molecule that doesn’t belong in our body will have such effect including altered fatty acids, pesticides, synthetics and drugs.
- Life functions. Life energy currents are responsible for all life functions, including healthy heartbeat, nerve function, cell division, coordination, sensory function, mental balance, and vitality. To explain degenerative diseases at the molecular level, we must look at altered molecules and their capacity to impair the natural flow of energy from molecule to molecule within our body. Trans-fatty acids constitute a major cause for these altered molecules. Since the disruption that trans-fatty acids create may be primarily electrical rather than molecular, by the time degeneration becomes visible those trans-fats that started the electrical process that led to degeneration have been metabolized and gone.
- EFA disruption. Trans-fats disrupt the vital functions of EFAs. They worsen EFA deficiency by interfering with the enzyme systems that transform fatty acids into highly unsaturated fatty acid derivatives found especially concentrated in our brain, sense organs, adrenals and testes. They also interfere with the production of prostaglandins that regulate muscle tone in the walls of our arteries, increase and decrease blood pressure, regulate platelet stickiness important to blood clotting and regulate kidney function, inflammation response and immune system competence. It is easy to see how anything that interferes with prostaglandins will interfere with health.
How our body deals with trans-fatty acids.
Just as a defective brick cannot be used to build, a defective oil cannot be used by the body. Some enzymes can recognize these defects and ‘reject’ these oils. Our brain is partially protected too as well as a baby in the womb is partially protected by the placenta. The body can selectively dispose of these defective oils breaking them down as fast as it can, but if too many are defective the body may have to use them for vital structures and functions anyway. This means that if all the fat we get in our diet is the fat found in m&m’s for example, our cells will be built with m&m fat and the end result is going to be disease, what kind of degenerative diseases?
- Atherosclerosis. Trans-fatty acids will increase blood cholesterol by up to 15% and blood fat by 47% very rapidly. Trans-fatty acids increase the size of atherosclerotic plaques, but high levels of natural oils like flax, hemp, cold water fish oils reverse this. This in spite of manufacturers’ advertising claims that suggest margarines are good four your heart.
- Cancer. Cancer rates have gone from 1 in 30 people in 1900 to 1 in 4 in 1990. This increase in cancer is parallel to the increase of fat consumption of hydrogenated, trans- fatty acid vegetable oils. Recent research shows that omega 3 fatty acids inhibit cancer.
Other side effects are: lower immune function, interference with pregnancy, lower birth weight, lower quality of breast milk, increase of blood insulin in response to glucose, decreased insulin response, altered activities of the liver enzyme that metabolizes carcinogens and toxins, altered membrane transport and fluidity.
Advertising. Exposing advertising claims
The oil industry is heavily invested in advertising. Fancy talk and pleasant imagery permeate many ads that want to sell us mediocre products. The worse the product is the more enticing and insistent the ad seems to be, this is especially the case of products directed to children, where a cartoon usually attracts the young mind’s attention.
Advertising counts on us being ignorant, confused or both to sell us products. We need to educate yourselves. In a label you will find things like:
‘From 100% corn oil‘. This claim is actually a true statement, margarine marketed this way usually comes from 100% corn, but it fails to specify that the corn oil used is refined, plus the fact that margarine is partially hydrogenated, and contains 25% trans fatty acids.
‘Polyunsaturated’ is a term that is usually associated in our minds with health or EFA containing. This is because both essential fatty acids LA and LNA are polyunsaturated, but most polyunsaturated oils are unnaturally produced so they contain no LNA.
‘High in polyunsaturates’, high doesn’t specify how high it is, it can refer to as little as 2%. A product termed like this may be devoid of omega 3, may contain unnatural polyunsaturates or may decrease cholesterol levels while increasing cancer. All these side effects are left out in the advertising. Trans-fatty acids constitute a major deception in advertising poly-unsaturated fatty acids because they are allowed to advertise them as high in polyunsaturates which is true but misleading because by being trans-polyunsaturted fatty acids they are harmful. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils also contain trans-polyunsaturated fatty acids and superunsaturated fatty acids. Because hydrogenation is a random uncontrollable process manufacturers do not have to give information on unnatural polyunsaturated fatty acids and superunsaturated fatty acids in their products.
‘Contains lecithin’, how much is not specified either and just a tiny amount is enough to be allowed to be put on the label.
‘For cooking, frying and baking’ this recommendation encourages sales but we have seen oils in this way cannot be healthy.
‘No preservatives’, the oil may still contain pesticides, solvents, residues or trans-fatty acids.
‘No cholesterol’ this is true of all products of plant origin. This claim can be used to sell refined oils, tropical fats, margarines, shortenings, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, etc. which although free of cholesterol may kill you by means of other toxic ingredients more rapidly than the feared cholesterol.
‘For the good of your heart’, there is no scientific evidence that backs up this claim in margarine and other hydrogenated products, on the contrary there is a lot that points in the opposite direction.
‘Low in fat’ or ‘light’. Some products advertised like this may still contain 50% of their calories in fat.
‘Cold pressed’ is a meaningless term. Neither industry nor government have agreed on a definition so this invites anybody to invent whatever suits them. The term was first introduced by a distributor of mass market oils strictly for advertising purposes. It can be used for seeds that have been heated to very high temperatures during deodoration because no external heat was applied to seeds while they were being pressed. This doesn’t take into account that the pressing itself produces heat due to pressure and rotational friction. In the USA this term is used undiscrimately and it is almost impossible to find commercially pressed oils without heat (an exception are virgin olive oils and one brand of peanut oils which is made by the old hydraulic pressing method that produces no heat). Screw (mechanical, expeller) presses generate heat by friction as seeds are compressed and rotated into a squeeze. Heat makes oils run out of seeds faster, the higher the heat, the less oil remains in the pressed seed cake, the better the profit. The lowest temperature at which it is possible to expeller press oils in small presses is around 122F, but the bigger the press the higher the temperature is. The higher the temperature, the faster the oil is destroyed by light and oxygen. Excluding light and oxygen from the pressing process can minimize this damage.
Butter vs. margarine
This topic has become a marketing battle waged in the media by dairy boards and oil processors, by keeping the controversy they also keep their products on our mind. Let’s look at these two in regards to health effects and their metabolism in our body.
Butter. It contains about 500 different fatty acids, one of them is butyric acid and other short chain fatty acids which are all easy to digest. It is low in EFAs, with 2% linoleic acid and no alpha linoleic acid. Compared to human milk fat, human milk contains between 7 and 14% linoleic acid and up to 2% alpha linoleic acid. The milk of a vegetarian mother contains up to 32% linoleic acid and 3% alpha linoleic acid. So if you were to compare butter and human milk, the last would win.
Butter contains about 9% stearic acid, 19% oleic acid and 38% palmitic acid. These three compete for enzymes that metabolize LA and LNA and in excess can interfere with the functions of EFAs.
A pound of butter contains 1 gram of cholesterol, a substance required by all our cells. Dairy farmers use antibiotics in cattle feed and injections which find their way into butter. Antibiotics encourage the growth of yeasts and fungi including candida in humans and can cause allergies, tiredness, sugar cravings (to feed candida), etc. Also, the use of antibiotics allows antibiotic resistant bacteria to thrive. If the butter comes from an organic farm, however, then this problem is gone.
Butter can be used for frying and high heat baking because it is mainly saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids which are relatively stable to light, heat and oxygen. Its low content of EFA is an advantage here. In general, butter is a neutral fat, it’s not essential, it can be useful for frying and in excess can be dangerous.
Butter has been blamed for the increase in degenerative diseases. However, the author notes that butter has been part of man’s diet since cows were domesticated several thousands of years ago. Degenerative diseases in a large scale are very recent in comparison (last 100 years). In this time span butter consumption has decreased. It is unlikely that butter or the cows it comes from are contributors to this rise in degenerative diseases. The author believes margarine has become more popular because is far cheaper than butter but has affected our health greatly.
Margarine contains a few short-chain, easily digestible fatty acids. The oils used to make margarines have plenty of EFAs but hydrogenation destroys them or changes them into altered substances. Margarine contains no cholesterol, but has all the minerals and vitamins removed. Margarine contains no antibiotics, but it contains plenty of trans-fats, so it can cause cardiovascular disease. Margarine is a source of aluminum and nickel which is a serious concern associated with senility, osteoporosis and cancer. Margarine is not suitable for frying, because the unsaturated fatty acids it still contains are further denatured by heat, light and oxygen. Margarine is often advertised in a misleading way as high in polyunsaturated which the public associates with good health because EFAs are polyunsaturated, but in margarine they are chemically altered so they are bad for health. The brand name Becel is made without trans-fats, and with refined sunflower and tropical fats.
Making oils with human health in mind.
In order from the most destructive to the less, light is most damaging, then oxygen. Heat speeds up the destruction by both light and oxygen. High temperatures cause great damage even in the absence of light and oxygen. Udo Erasmus custom-designed and custom-made parts for existing presses to prevent any contact of the oil with light and air while being pressed, avoiding certain metals too. Several companies now make oils using the methods he pioneered.
Packaging and storing oils.
According to the author, seed oils should be pressed and bottled in the dark and in an oxygen-free environment. Refrigeration slows down deterioration by half, so oils should be kept in a dark bottle and refrigerated. Each second that a full exprectrum light hits the oil thousands of photons strike it, each photon of light can begin a free radical chain reaction that lasts 30,000 cycles before it stops. Oils to be healthy need to go from the darkness of a bottle to the darkness of our stomach. Black bottles are best, then brown, then green. For complete protection they should be packed under inert gas (nitrogen, argon or inert gas mixtures) to exclude oxygen. Like this, oils can be kept for years without spoiling.
Opened bottles should be used rapidly after opening: flax 3-6 weeks, hemp 6-12 weeks. As soon as we open the bottle, gas molecules enter the bottle very fast. Each oxygen molecule inside the container can induce many cycles of free radical chain reactions without being used up. In a sealed cooled container, flax lasts 3 months, hemp 5 months or longer. Safflower, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin 9-12 months, and olive oil 2 years. Walnut and soy are less sensitive than flax because they contain less LNA but are more sensitive than oils containing only LA.
Labeling oil products.
Labels should be informative to help consumers make the right choices, but they are not. Manufacturers are not required to state on the label when an oil has been refined, bleached, deodorized, or hydrogenated so they don’t give this information. Labels should include the following information:
- Refined-unrefined: the label should say whether the oil is crude (unrefined) or refined. Usually the label specifies this only when it is ‘unrefined’ or ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’. If this information doesn’t show up on the label, then it is refined.
- EFAs content: Since the EFAs LA and LNA are key to health, products should display how many grams per 100mg it contains of each. To be good it must contain at least 25 grams of LA per 100mg.
- Pressing date should be included. It shouldn’t be confused with processing date that makes older oils look fresh.
- ‘Mechanically pressed’ or ‘chemically extracted’.
- Organic or non-organic.
The best oils are unrefined, mechanically expeller pressed without solvents, stored in opaque containers protected from light, oxygen and heat and delivered quickly to the consumer so they don’t spoil.
When it comes to nutritional content, in order from the most nutritious to least, the best oils are:
- Hemp seed oil. It comes from the seeds of the marijuana plant. Hemp and sproutable seeds are illegal to grow in the USA, but the oil is legal. Hemp seeds and hemp oil contain no THC (the drug derivative). Hemp seed oil is probably the most perfectly balanced oil there is. Hemp contains 19% of LNA, 57% of the LA and 1.7% LA derived GLA. It is the only common oil that contains GLA. It is so well balanced that one could use it for a lifetime without ever suffering EFA deficiency. Hemp was widely used to make clothing, textiles, rope, etc. Even the first and second drafts of the U.S. Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. However, hemp received heavy negative propaganda that successfully changed the public’s perception of this once widely used plant. Nowadays the public’s perception of this plant is changing and there are even companies selling cannabis oil legally.
- Flax seed oil. It contains the largest amount of alpha linoleic acid (LNA), it is so rich in LNA it can lead to linoleic acid (LA) deficiency. Alpha linoleic acid helps disperse deposits of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol which like to aggregate and make platelets sticky (blood clots). Flax seed is a poor source of LA but it is the richest source of LNA. To convert LNA to EPA to prostaglandins the body needs optimum amounts of the conversion co-factors B3, B6, and C and the minerals magnesium and zinc. Something unique about flax is that it may contain a substance resembling prostaglandins. To be good for health flax oil must be fresh, not exposed to light, oxygen and heat because these destroy the alpha linoleic acid rapidly. Eating the seeds whole will keep the body from getting the nutrients they contain, you can grind them and eat them right away, and this is the best way to get the freshest less spoiled oil possible plus all the other nutrients they contain. Take them with plenty of fluid because its mucilage absorbs 5 times the seed’s weight of water. Use from 1 to 6 tablespoons per day. 1 tablespoon contains about 1 teaspoon of oil. The use of flax seeds this way can improve digestion, prevent constipation, stabilize blood glucose levels, improve cardiovascular health, inhibit tumor formation, etc. Ground flax seeds kept in plastic containers from the store are usually rancid. Fresh, unrefined flax oils contains lecithin and other phospholipids that help emulsify fats and oils for easier digestion, also carotene, and vitamin E. When the oil is refined both are removed. Flax seeds contain high quality easily digestible protein that contains all amino acids essential to human health, with which the body can make protein. Flax is low in both lysine, methionine and cysteine (essential for premature infants). The high fiber in flax minimizes the release of toxins back into our blood and lowers cholesterol by preventing it and bile acids from being reabsorbed into our body from our intestine. Cholesterol and bile acids attach themselves to fiber and are carried out of our body. It also feeds the healthy intestinal flora and yeasts that make some of our vitamins and protect us from unfriendly intestinal bugs. The mucilage in flax soothes and protects the delicate stomach and intestinal lining, prevents irritation and keeps the contents moving smoothly along. It absorbs water and swells to about 20 times its dry volume. It can be considered the laxative of choice. Flax mucilage also has the ability to buffer excess acid, this makes it ideal for people with acid or sensitive stomachs, ulcers and inflammatory conditions of any part of the intestine. Mucilage helps stabilize blood glucose so it can be useful in diabetes and hypoglycaemia. Flax also contains minerals, fat soluble vitamins E, carotene and water soluble vitamins B1, B2 and C. It is also high in lignans which are molecules with antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties. It contains 100 more lignans than the next source, wheat bran, which is found in the seed meal rather than the oil. Flax can be considered a good food because it has almost all of the components of a complete diet: protein, oil with lecithin, phytosterols, minerals and vitamins, fiber and lignans.
- Pumpkin seed oil is difficult to obtain. It might contain 0-15% of alpha linoleic acid (LNA) and from 45% to 60% of linoleic acid (LA). Most commonly available kinds contain no LNA
- Unrefined walnut oil is difficult to find fresh, most is refined.
- Unrefined soybean oil is high-quality oil but the yield from mechanical pressing is low. Fresh unrefined soybean is an excellent source of EFAs, lecithin, phytosterols and other natural factors that inhibit some kinds of cancers. Most of the soy oil in commercial trade is refined and partly hydrogenated.
- Wheat germ oil contains some LNA and is a rich source of a fatty alcohol called octacosanol which protects heart function and may help nerve degeneration. It is also the richest source of vitamin E.
Inside the best oils category there are two oils that deserve special attention. These are the oils from fish and seafoods. They are associated with clean arteries and freedom from fatty degeneration because of the two recently discovered essential omega 3 fatty acids they contain: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). What makes these two oils special is that they are normal constituents of our cells, especially abundant in brain cells, nerve synapses, retinas, adrenal glands, and sex glands. They can be manufactured by healthy cells from omega 3 fatty acids (flax, hemp, etc.) but degenerative conditions may keep our body from making them. EPA and DHA come from cold water fish and other marine animals. Fish can make EPA and DHA from the omega 3 fatty acid LNA but mainly from brown and red algae. EPA and DHA reverse the negative effects of lack of omega 3 fatty acids. By adding it to our diet either through fish oil pills, by eating these fish fresh or by eating brown and red algae we can get the benefits of these oils. Algae are like living little factories that make omega 3 fatty acids and can be used as excellent food sources of EPA and DHA containing triglycerides. EPA and DHA being highly unsaturated have a strong urge to disperse, have an extremely low melting point so they will not harden or aggregate (stick together), consequently, they help keep saturated fatty acids and cholesterol dispersed and keep our platelets from getting too sticky and blood clots from happening.
Functions of EPA and DHA
-EPA is the starting material for making series 3 prostaglandins which have beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, kidney function, inflammatory response and immune function.
-In our retina, these highly active fatty acids are involved with the conversion of light energy entering our eyes into the chemical energy of nerve impulses.
-In our brain, they have neurological functions that involve energy conversion and electron transfer. They attract oxygen necessary for intense chemical activity of brain cells. In adrenal and sex glands, they provide increased chemical activity.
-In our arteries, EPA and DHA also seem to help lower fibrinogen and apo levels, two repair proteins that are involved in the proliferation of atherosclerotic tissue in arteries. Lowered levels of these repair proteins result in less atherosclerosis and more fully open arteries.
-When it comes to blood triglycerides, EPA and DHA can lower high triglycerides by up to 65%, cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and very-low density lipoprotein (VLDL) by half.
-EPA lowers elevated blood pressure through the effects of prostaglandins made from omega 3s.
-Hormone effects. From EPA our body makes prostaglandins and leukotrienes that help prevent strokes heart attacks and other problems that involve clot formation, such as pulmonary embolism and cardiovascular complications due to diabetes which can result in gangrenous limbs and blindness.
-Cancer. In some studies omega 3 fish oils inhibited growth and metastasis of tumors. Negative experimental results with omega 3 fish oils in cancer treatment are likely due to poor product quality (rancid oils) or low omega 3 fish oils. Trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and eel are the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
Conversion of LNA to EPA
If a person has no omega 3s in their body but takes 2 tablespoons of flax oil each day, of which 50% is LNA their body can make 378 mg of EPA which is what two large capsules of fish oil will supply. EPA made in our body is fresher than from pills. LNA from seeds are available in fresher conditions than fish oils because they are simpler to produce and are more stable and are less likely to contain toxic ingredients like PCBs. However, for people who cannot make the conversion, fish or their oils would be the best choice. Dietary saturates, monounsaturates, trans- fatty acids and cholesterol all slow down conversion, and deficiencies of vitamins B3, B6, C, magnesium or zinc also inhibit conversion.
EPA and DHA from fish take about 2-3 weeks to be completely metabolized in our body after being consumed. Their triglyceride-lowering, platelet unsticking, and artery protecting effects last the same length of time. Fish should be eaten at least every 2 weeks, with their skins on because the fats we want are found under their skin, especially behind the gills, around the fins and along the belly. It should be boiled better than fried.
EPA and DHA are even more sensitive to destruction by light, air and heat than LNA. They need completely opaque insulation, either in a capsule or bottle. Most capsules marketed today contain ‘fishy’ tasting oil (rancid). Sardines canned in their own oil are the only processed source that could be said not to be rancid. The best way to eat it would be to eat it while it is still ‘wiggling’ and prepare it immediately. This is why the Inuit were virtually free of disease of fatty degeneration, even though their diet contained very little fiber.
From best oils we move on to good oils. Good oils lack LNA, therefore they should be used only in conjunction with LNA containing oils. They are a good source of LA, which our body needs more than LNA. These are:
- Unrefined safflower and sunflower seed oils: they are available in natural health food stores in transparent bottles which exposes them to the light.
- Sesame seed oil is easy to press without heat, it should be unrefined and untoasted. It contains natural preservatives that keep it stable for a long time.
- Rice bran oil is another stable omega 6 oil, rich source of natural waxes and sterols that lower cholesterol levels. None of these oils should be fried, rather used in salads or mayonnaise.
- Evening primrose oil (EPO) is always refined. Evening primrose oil, borage and black currant contain LA and GLA. Our body can make some GLA from LA under certain circumstances. GLA is beneficial for arthritis and premenstrual syndrome, also the body uses GLA to make prostaglandins that benefit the heart and arteries, glands, kidneys, joints and mental function. In addition to GLA black currant oil also contains LNA and its first derivative called steraridonic acid (SDA).
Mediocre omega 6 oils:
- Corn oil is usually solvent extracted and refined. Occasionally one can obtain mechanically pressed unrefined corn oil pressed from corn germ, but generally it is partially rancid.
- Grape oil is similar to corn oil with no special advantages over other oils. It is rich in omega 6 but has no omega 3.
- Other oils in this category can be applied on the skin, but they are better eaten than applied on the skin because on the skin they can turn rancid quick. The best for this are almond, apricot and prune. Almond is rich in vitamin E so it is a stable EFA rich oil. Neem oil is good for skin because of its antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic and repels mosquitoes and other insects.
- Monounsaturated oils. Rape and mustard are monounsaturated oils that contain small amounts of both EFAs. Unrefined these oils can have a strong flavor so they are mainly used refined. Canola is sometimes partially hydrogenated, destroying LNA. Peanut oil is a stable monounsaturate oil available as a true batch-pressed unrefined oil with a pleasant aroma, but peanuts can have carcinogenic substances made by a fungus that grows in damp peanuts.
- Avocado oil is a monounsaturated oil that is sold unrefined. It is similar to olive, peanut and almond oils in its EFA and monounsaturated fatty acid content.
- Olive oil is rich in monounsaturates but low in EFAs. It is stable and requires no equipment for pressing the oil. It is the only unrefined oil sold in the general mass market. It contains phytosterols, chlorophyll, magnesium, vitamin E, and carotene. It contains about 80% monounsaturated fatty acids, 8-10% LA and about 1% LNA.
Research shows this fruit oil protects against cardiovascular disease, has been associated with low cancer incidence and general good health. The positive thing about olive oil that gives it its health benefits is that it is pressed without heat. When it is unrefined it still contains many natural factors unique to olives. Its unsaturated fatty acids are anti-mutagenic, which means they can protect the genetic material in our cells from mutations caused by toxic chemicals or destructive rays. When those protective unsaturated fatty acids are heated over 302 F not only they lose those protective effects but they become mutation causing themselves. Virgin olive oils are the only mass market oils that have not been heated above that temperature.
Olive oil is poor in EFAs so these must be obtained from other sources, because of this olive oil is deficient in cholesterol lowering effects. Olive oil is high in oleic acid (63-83%) and has some palmitoleic acid, which are monounsaturated non-essential fatty acids that are quite stable. It also contains the non-essential saturated fatty acid palmitic acid (7.5-18%). Olive oil also has some minor components that account for only 2% of the total value of the oil but are quite important like beta-carotene (pro vitamin A) and tocopherols (vitamin E). Magnesium rich chlorophyll is found in unrefined green oils like olive oil, hemp, pumpkin and avocado, this is also removed when the oil is refined. Phytosterols are also present in olive oil but removed when the oil is refined. One polyphenol in olive oil (oleoeuropein) lowers blood pressure.
Other health benefits of olive oil: Virgin olive oil helps membrane development, cell formation and cell differentiation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol when other bad oils were replaced by olive oil and proven to lower the formation of gallstones and favor bile secretion (all of which improves the digestion of fats and helps the body eliminate the toxic end products of the liver).
Oils that can be heated.
Butter, tropical fats (coconut, palm, palm kernel, cocoa and shea nut) are safest for frying because they contain only small quantities of EFAs which heat turns into poisonous breakdown products that interfere with EFA functions. Only small amounts should be eaten as they are sticky hard saturated fatty acid containing fats.
Tropical fats got a bad reputation for increasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels but tropical oils used in their country of origin decrease cholesterol levels. Raw tropical oils are rich sources of vitamin E and tocotrienols which help protect arteries from damage leading to cardiovascular disease. Tropical fats are the most stable fats known.
Seeds are nutritionally balanced and they are the best way to get fresh oils as long as they are not roasted and they are freshly ground prior to consuming them. The shell in each seed acts as a barrier for light and oxygen, so if they are ground, they need to be consumed fairly quickly to avoid rancidity. In addition to EFAs seeds also contain vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber and many important minor seed specific ingredients. Good quality seeds are our most reliable sources of the freshest possible oils. Only if we need more than 2 tablespoons of oil, which is common in the treatment of degenerative conditions we need to rely on bottled oils.
Evening primrose oil, borage and black currant oils.
Evening Primrose Oil has 72% linoleic acid, 9% GLA and a small amount of non-essential fatty acids. Borage oil is 24% GLA, 34% LA, the rest is saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Black currant oil contains both EFAs and up to 18% GLA and 9% of stearic acid, unfortunately this is always refined and deodorized.
Hemp seed oil contains about 2% GLA. Flax, safflower, sunflower, sesame and other common vegetable oils contain no GLA at all.
LNA is found in flax, hemp, rape (canola) seed, soybean, walnut and DHA. LNA is the second EFA required for human health. Our body cannot make it, so it must come from the diet. GLA and LNA are almost identical, this is why they are easily confused and lumped together, but their small difference makes it where they cannot substitute one another.
Studies with evening primrose oil (EPO) compared to omega 3.
Both of these oils have been extensively tested in double blind trials. EPO has been found to possibly:
- Lower blood pressure, cholesterol, lower risk of stroke and heart attack. Omega 3 lowers blood pressure, platelets stickiness, and cardiovascular risk more effectively.
- Normalize fat metabolism in diabetes and the amount of insulin needed by diabetics (omega 3s do this also)
- Prevent liver damage caused by alcoholism.
- Cause weight loss by increasing fat burn-off (omega 3’s are more effective in this sense).
- Relieve premenstrual syndrome.
- Prevent drying and atrophy of tear and salivary glands.
- Improve the condition of hair, nails and skin (omega 3 does even a better job)
- Improve certain kinds of eczema.
- Slow down or stop deterioration in multiple sclerosis.
- Help treat diabetic neuropathy in type 2 diabetes (removal of sugar and saturated fatty acids and consumption of omega 3 also works well)
- Kill cancer cells in tissue culture without harming normal cells (omega 3 more effectively inhibit cancer cells in practice).
Continuing results with EPO and GLA.
EPO has the drawback that it doesn’t supply the missing omega 3 and adds to an already existing overload of omega 6. From LA our body makes gamma linoleic acid (GLA). The problem with EPO is that it addresses only half of the EFA conversion problem. If the conversion of omega 6 (LA to GLA) is blocked, the conversion of omega 3 (LNA to SDA) is also blocked because the same enzyme converts both EFA to derivatives. But EPO contains only omega 6s and therefore cannot address the equally important omega 3 block. Black currant oil contains both omega 6 and omega 3 derivatives and can therefore address the conversion of both EFAs. To address the conversion problem EPO must be combined with an oil containing omega 3 derivatives, such as fish oil. In the case of cancer it is especially critical that EPO not be given without including omega 3 fatty acids, because omega 6 enhance tumor formation and growth, while omega 3 inhibits tumors.
Borage and black currant oils.
These have been less researched. Like EPO, borage oil contains only omega 6 so it only does half the job, it should be combined with an omega 3 derivative like fish oil. Black currant oil contains both omega 3 and 6, GLA and the omega 3 derivative stearidonic acid. All of these oils are usually refined, solvent extracted as well.
As with all oils, cofactors are needed: zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamins B3 and B6, as they assist the body in converting GLA to prostaglandins.
Toxic oils. Besides trans-fats, several oils contain toxic fatty acids and therefore are not recommended for human consumption.
- Cottonseed oil. Contains cyclopropene fatty acid which has toxic effects on liver and gallbladder, slows down sexual maturity, destroys enzymes that make highly unsaturated fatty acids and interferes with essential fatty acid functions. It also contains gossypol, a complex substance that irritates the digestive tract and causes water retention in the lungs, shortness of breath and paralysis. Cottonseed oil contains high levels of pesticide residues.
- Cetoleic acid, found in herring and capelin oils.
- Castor oils contains ricinoleic acid, which stimulates the secretion of fluids in the intestine, and is therefore used as a purge, causing powerful intestinal contractions. It has no harmful effects because it is not absorbed into our body. Prolonged use can make our body to lose minerals and vitamins.
- Oils can be modified by heat. In this way, oils produce many harmful substances which have not been identified yet, but some have been found in the liver as fatty deposits. Deep frying destroys the oils in 3 different ways simultaneously: light, oxygen and heat. Besides producing atherosclerosis, they also impair cell respiration and other cell functions, inhibit immune functions and lead to cancer.
- Brominated oils. Oils can also be modified when bromine is added. These oils are made from olive, corn, sesame, cottonseed, and soybean oils and are used for cosmetic purposes in fresh juices, to give juices with a cloudy appearance a fresh look. Brominated oils cause changes in heart tissue, thyroid enlargement, fatty liver, kidney damage, and withered testicles. They decrease the heart’s ability to use saturated fats as fuel and lower the liver’s ability to metabolize pyruvic acid, a very common fuel for cells. These oils accumulate toxic bromine in the tissues of children and in some countries in Europe they are banned.
- Oils can also be modified by light and free radicals. Light produces free radicals in oils, which will produce changes in molecules that affect our health. A free radical is a molecule that is missing an electron, they are very small and can move at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), while it is moving, it is looking for a partner and is willing to break up another pair to find a ‘mate’. Between 2 to 5% of the free radicals involved in oxidation escape from molecular confinement and it is these escapees that can damage molecules in cells and tissues. Lots of free radicals are produced every second and our body uses antioxidants like vitamins C, B3, and E etc. to neutralize them. If we are antioxidant deficient, free radical chain reactions can occur leading to the wrong biochemical reactions, toxic substances and disease. In an oil, this free radical chain reaction can happen by exposing the oil to light. A ray of light may be caught by an electron in a fatty acid breaking off its bond, the electron now carries more energy than it did before and in this excited state, it takes off with a hydrogen nucleus, leaving behind a lone electron desperate for a partner, this will go on as another electron is left unpaired which then becomes a chain reaction until the original electron finds another lone electron or until an antioxidant traps the loose electron. This can go on for 30,000 cycles before it is stopped and another ray of light can start this chain reaction again. Billions of photons are present even in a cloudy day. This becomes more dramatic if the oil is already processed from which all antioxidants have been removed.
- Oxygen destroys oil in a similar way. If the antioxidants are left intact in the oil, they can trap these free radicals. Vitamin C for example can reactivate used up glutathione and vitamin E, which in turn reactivates carotene and other antioxidants. Metals added to the oil encourage free radical formation. In mass production, cheap dangerous antioxidants are added to replace the natural ones. In our body, vitamin E and carotene protect the fatty cell membrane. Vitamin C, Sulphur, selenium and bioflavonoids protect the watery parts. Alpha Lipoic acid protects both. Antioxidants can prevent and reverse free radical damage, but not for ever, this is called aging. Antioxidants then play an important role in protecting oils in our body.
Oils in your kitchen. Frying and deep frying.
Frying causes rapid oxidation (rapid use up of the antioxidants). Free radicals then start chain reactions in oil molecules. Decades of this causes our cells to accumulate altered toxic products for which they have not evolved efficient detoxifying mechanisms, cells then degenerate and diseases start.
Frying is not recommended. Frying turns EFAs into toxic products, the smoke you see coming off the pan is destroyed fatty acids. Coconut oil, palm, palm kernel, cocoa butter and butter in small quantities can be used for frying if one insists on frying oils. Used in moderation, fried butter and coconut oil create fewer health problems than other fried oils. But since they lack EFAs they are nutritionally deficient, they provide only fat calories our body must burn for energy or store as fat. Shortening and margarine are definitely not good for frying because they contain too many altered molecule to begin with and frying makes them worse. Olive oil (unrefined) is acceptable for low temperature frying. Refined peanut and avocado oils withstand heat relatively well. High oleic sunflower and high oleic safflower oils are also quite stable but are more difficult to find. Fresh unrefined mechanically pressed light and oxygen protected EFA rich oils should never be used for frying. An example is flax seed.
Boiling is less destructive than frying, even the most sensitive EFA rich oils can be used on cooked grains and steamed vegetables without deterioration (temperature 212F). Baking is midway between boiling and frying (temperature 240F). Butter or coconut oil can be used to line baking pans or to brush the top of what you are baking. The inside of baked bread is steamed at an acceptable temperature for even the most sensitive of oils, the crust however has the oils destroyed. So if you must fry, use refined oils that contain the lowest amounts of EFAs and the greatest amounts of SAFAs and MUFAs and use sulfur rich garlic and onion in frying to minimize radical damage.
Oils least damaged by high temperatures in order of preference are butter, tropical fats, high oleic sunflower oil (not regular), high oleic safflower (not regular), peanut oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and olive oil. Since these oils are low on EFA they produce the lowest amount of toxic molecules when heated. Deep frying is completely prohibited if optimum health is what you are looking for, or if you are attempting to reverse cancer or any other degenerative disease.
Hidden junk fats.
They make up almost half of all the fats we eat. They are found in a great variety of processed foods. They are always refined and toxic oils and never the essential fats our body needs so the best way to avoid them is to completely stop eating processed foods.
Summing up, fats and oils are a very important part of health. Only oils that are fresh and protected from oxidation can build our body, otherwise they can damage our health. As consumers we can make informed decisions to avoid degenerative diseases and keep our health in our own hands. Thanks for reading.