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Praise of PUFA

Sorry, you have been blinded by marketing – without even realizing it.

Crisco advertisement

Humor us for a second. Let’s go through a little thought experiment… (We will let you know when the pretending is over.)

Just pretend you are an alien coming on to Planet Earth for the very first time. Clearly you would see all the humans absolutely dependent on Earth for everything. We need food the land produces, water the rivers provide, and numerous other natural resources that make the simultaneous living of billions of people possible. It is a beautiful and harmonious thing.

Pretend you also know the context in which we have been living. Meaning, you see our history and where we came from. You see that much of our diet (for many millennia) was made of animal products – meat, fat, butter, etc. You can see that fat has played an important role in keeping us alive, and it continues to do so.

This all came from Mother Earth who provided us with everything we need – and that included saturated fats. But you also see the role that vegetables and fruits have played. They, too, provide us with nutrients for life. They all have worked together to keep us thriving.

Role of business

Then, all of a sudden, you see giant companies form around the sale of fats. Where there is a market demand, there is someone with a great business idea to fill that demand. Awesome – nothing inherently wrong with that. It is the market at work, and it too can be beautiful and harmonious.

But you notice the types of fats people are consuming are… different. They are not the same animal fats we used to consume. Instead, it looks like they are selling manufactured fats. They come from the processing of certain flowers, seeds, or vegetables.

 

Company production of different kinds of fats


Of course, you’ve been on Earth long enough to know all fats are processed in some way. People don’t sit under a cow and butter pops out. They have to make it. And on a large scale that may mean automated and factory processing. However, these kinds of cooking oils seem a little more “forced” into being fats. They require harsh temperatures and pressures to make, and they can only be made from heavy manufacturing. People could not make a lot of these oils without modern technology. That’s why it has never existed before. 

Bad news about saturated fat

And then you notice that the creators of these new fats are demonizing the natural fats at the same time. They talk about the dangers of animal produced fat – mainly saturated fat. Scientists jump on board and claim that saturated fat causes heart disease and clogs your arteries because it raises cholesterol. They do this all the while talking about how healthy their new kind of fats are because they lower cholesterol. They promote many things like hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and polyunsaturated fats – all in the name of heart health.

You see the human drive for success at work here. And, honestly, it’s not a bad thought. If saturated fat was causing heart disease, then it makes sense companies would try to produce something healthier. However, it turned out these kinds of fats were not healthier, yet they still promote their products and have governmental organizations backing them.

You then see all the news posts about the dangers of trans fats and hydrogenated oils. Whoops.. They were wrong about those kinds, but people seem to be okay with the third kind: vegetable oils. Seeing the path of our history, you might be suspicious of these kinds of fats too – and rightfully so. They are playing the hearts of Americans and people around the world like violins.

 

Advertisement for vegetable oilsAdvertisement for corn oil


You ask yourself, “Are they really there to keep our heart healthy? Or are they really there to make a s**t load of money as they were doing in the past? Clearly they didn’t used to care about true heart health with trans fat, so why would people think these manufactured fats any better? After all, they went through thousands of generations with animal and saturated fats. Maybe it is all just company marketing…”

One last question for you, and all the pretending will be over:

If you were an alien and knew all the history and saw all the recent changes in diet, what would you prefer to eat? Remember, this is all absent the brainwashing that saturated fat is bad. You remain objective, and all you see are the trends. Would you choose: butter or cooking oil?

Why do they promote it as heart healthy?

They get away with promoting it as healthy because polyunsaturated fat lowers both LDL cholesterol (the supposed “bad kind”) and total cholesterol.[1][2] It is true. It does that very well. In fact, they do it so well that companies use that angle as their number one marketing tactic. Just look at some of the advertisements above. We would have no problem with that if the claim to cholesterol’s problems were true.

Sadly, they are not. There is absolutely no evidence that cholesterol is the driving force for heart disease.[3] Actually, we can say with absolute certainty that it is not the causal factor. Check out our article about the roles of cholesterol in the body. A basic understanding physiology is all that is required to understand that cholesterol does not cause heart disease. It is more complex than that. But there is the scientific evidence to back us up too.[4][5]

 

Cholesterol is not bad for the heart


Saturated fat and cholesterol have never been the problem, and they never will be the problem. Cholesterol is present in heart disease, but we have known for a long time that it is not causal. It is a fireman at the scene of a fire. That’s it.

What are the implications?

So, it looks like companies have been selling their products based on one fact: they lower cholesterol. All that does is put a Band-Aid over the problem. It is similar to giving a failing student an “A” so he can move on. They have not fixed the fundamental issue, and this is going to hurt him later on in life. There is are deeper and a preliminary causes to heart disease way beyond cholesterol.

This implies that the cooking oils may not be better for us after all. Actually, not only are these oils not better, they are severely harmful to our health! That is a huge problem if millions of people still find their use healthier. Let’s get off the cholesterol band wagon and look at the objective truth: such polyunsaturated fats are unstable and harmful to the human body.[6][7]

Check out our article on why exactly that is. We go into a good amount of deal with the chemistry and scientific literature to make sure we have our facts straight. It comes down to polyunsaturated fats being more unstable and converting to harmful oxidation products both while cooking and while in the body. There is no reason to have them in your diet.

But what about omega-3 fats?

Fish contain a lot of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids


We have spent a large amount of time talking about the story of vegetable / cooking oils, but that is not the only format in which polyunsaturated fats exist. They also exist in animal fats, but usually in small amounts compared to saturated or monounsaturated fats.[8]

However, they are especially high in fish and other seafood.[9] That’s why you will hear most people talk about fish being a “good kind” of fatty animal. Everyone seems to be falling in line with the polyunsaturated fat train.

There is truth to the health benefits of fish. And actually we have an entire article dedicated to the discussion of the type of fat found in fish oil: omega-3 fatty acids.

But that is the defining detail. The major type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish is omega-3 fat.[9] We do view that kind of fat as good. However, many types of vegetable and cooking oils have a high composition of omega-6 fats.[10] They are fundamentally different. Again, we go through this in the article on the dangers of polyunsaturated fats.

There are benefits to fish oil, but you must keep in mind that although fish and vegetable oils are both polyunsaturated fats, they are very different in composition and thus have different effects in the body.

References:

[1] Jackson RL, Taunton OD, Morrisett JD, Gotto AM. (1978). The Role of Dietary Polyunsaturated Fat in Lowering Blood Cholesterol in Man. Circulation Research 42(4): 447-453.

[2] Mattson FH, Grundy SM. (1985). Comparison of effects of dietary saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids on plasma lipids an lipoproteins in man. Journal of Lipid Research 26: 194-202.

[3] [4] Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, Daview B, Sculthorpe N, DiNicolantonio J, Grace F. (2015). Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysisOpen Heart 

[4] Wong AP, Mohamed AL, Niedzwiecki A. (2016). Atherosclerosis and the Cholesterol Theory: A ReappraisalWorld Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases 6: 391-409.

[5] Malhotra A, Redberg R, Meier P. (2017). Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventionsBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 51(15): 1111-1112.

[6] Ayala A, Munoz MF, Arguelles S. (2014). Lipid Peroxidation: Production, Metabolism, and Signaling Mechanisms of Malondialdehyde and 4-Hydroxy-2-NonenalOxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2014: 1-31.

[7] Grootveld M, Rodado VR, Silwood CJ. (2014). Detection, monitoring, and deleterious health effects of lipid oxidation products generated in culinary oils during thermal stressing episodesInform 25(10): 614-624.

[8] Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal 9: 10. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10.

[9] Sirot V, Oseredczuk M, Bemrah-Aouachria N, Volatier J, Leblanc J. (2008). Lipid and fatty acid composition of fish and seafood consumed in France: CALIPSO study. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 21(1): 8-16.

[10] Orsavova J, Misurcova L, Ambrozova JV, Vicha R, Mlcek J. (2015). Fatty Acids Composition of Vegetable Oils and Its Contribution to Dietary Energy Intake and Dependence of Cardiovascular Mortality on Dietary Intake of Fatty AcidsInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences 16: 12871-12890.

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