I recently finished science-aficionado Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D.’s, “Deep Nutrition (2017),” and now I’m listening to it for a second time. I highly recommend it. It’s a modern day nutrition bible, in which she outlines the seven ways that vegetable oils are killing us, and the main way that sugar is killing us.
1. Glycation. Let’s start with sugar. How does it kill us? The answer is simple: glycation.
Glycation is the chemically reactive process in which sugar sticks to everything. Over time and with enough heat, sugar bonds can become permanent, after much oxidation. When you’re at Starbucks, eyeing the brown and stiff pastries crusted with sugar, well, that’s exactly this.
And guess what? The same thing happens in our bodies. Ever heard of AGEs, or advanced glycation end-products, predominating in the blood of diabetics? After the kidneys filter our blood, these AGEs, or waste products, even play a role in coloring our urine yellow as they are excreted from the body. The fact is, our inner organs and tissues can become hardened and encrusted with these sugar-protein molecules, and this can lead to a ton of health issues (aka, sequelae), such as skin disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. (1, 2)
So what about vegetable oils? Why are they killing us? Well, a significant percentage of calories from the Standard American Diet (SAD) comes from vegetable oils, and one need only read labels to verify this! They’re literally in everything, and yes, unfortunately, they’re what make those Juanitas’ chips so addicting.
The Main Culprits
Before we discuss mechanisms, let’s first define the main culprits: corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, and canola! There are quite a few others, too.
Polyunsaturated Fats and Oxidation
Let’s also briefly discuss the main reason vegetable oils can be so lethal: polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), uniquely comprising the majority of fats in vegetables oils, are the most susceptible to oxidative reactions. (3) Oxidation is when oxygen is chemically added to a compound, a process which changes PUFAs into dangerous free radicals that will randomly damage molecules, becoming an inflammatory cascade in the eco-system of our bodies that can generate even more free radicals. This is another reason that if you do eat vegetable oils, it’s critical to limit their exposure to heat or cooking before ingestion. Of course, likely they already are severely damaged as is.
2. Vegetable Oils Wreak Havoc on Our Gut. There is a pro-inflammatory effect that vegetable oils have on the stomach lining, which can produce heartburn, and even lead to ulcerative colitis. (4) And then the microbiome can be completely disrupted. (5)
3. Our Immune System Defenses Can Crash. Because our immune system relies on a steady supply of antioxidants to ward off inflammatory damage, (6) our endogenous antioxidants can be gobbled up because they are used by our bodies to quench free radical damage generated by vegetable oils. Our brain also relies on antioxidants (remember our brain is about 60% fat!), and so that is another side effect: you become more prone to inflammatory and chronic progressive brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.
Tweet: “If you had to remove 2 foods from your diet, what should they be? My answer: vegetable oils and sugar. #modernvital” by clicking the Twitter logo.
4. Induces Autoimmune Reaction. With inflammation produced by vegetable oils, the immune system becomes more hyper-reactive to potential foreign intruders, and common proteins such as gluten can become a problem and are more likely to be perceived as pathogenic. The immune system then begins to attack itself. And of course this whole process is made much more likely, in fact, it is supported by vegetable oils.
5. Nutrients Can’t Get to Our Brain. As our antioxidant status becomes depleted, blood flow in the brain can become disabled as normal endothelial function is disrupted. (7) This can even cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED), (8) as well as migraines and mini strokes.
6. Oxidative Stress Accelerates in the Body. We are already exposed to an onslaught of toxins, as well as chronic stress, and so there is already a low level, minimally, of oxidative stress occurring in our bodies at any given time. Vegetable oils only add fuel to this fire.
7. Vegetable Oil is a Motherload of Toxicity. Super toxic compounds like 4-HNE, or 4-hydroxy-2-nonemal, derived from oxidized omega-6 fats and produced by the industrial refining process of vegetable oils, lay dormant in the products on the shelf. This industrial process is known as Refining, Bleaching, and Deodorizing, or RBD. But evidence points to these toxins multiplying exponentially when they are reheated. 4-HNE can take out cells known as microtubules, which means we can’t make new memories. (9)
8. Loss of Identity. Of course, if you follow the story of everything above, one can end up not only with learning disorders, such as autism, but ultimately with severe memory loss and dementia.
For more studies and research supporting this article, I recommend that you pick up a copy of Dr. Shanahan’s book!
So, if there is one takeaway from this article, reduce your consumption of vegetable oils and sugar as much as you can, at all costs, and watch your health elevate. #modernvital
1. Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in Dermatology. 2010;28(4):409-411. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018.
2. Hegab Z. Role of advanced glycation end products in cardiovascular disease. World Journal of Cardiology. 2012;4(4):90. doi:10.4330/wjc.v4.i4.90.
3. Gardner HW. Oxygen radical chemistry of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 1989;7(1):65-86. doi:10.1016/0891-5849(89)90102-0.
4. Hart A et al. Dietary Oleic Acid May Protect Against the Development of Ulcerative Colitis – A UK Prospective Cohort Study (Abstract #100). Presented at DDW 2010, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA, Sunday, May 2, 11:45 a.m. CT.
5. Howard FAC, Henderson C. Hydrogenation of polyunsaturated fatty acids by human colonic bacteria. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 1999;29(3):193-196. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2672.1999.00616.x.
6. Hughes DA. Effects of dietary antioxidants on the immune function of middle-aged adults. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 1999;58(01):79-84. doi:10.1079/pns19990012.
7. Esmaillzadeh A, Azadbakht L. Home use of vegetable oils, markers of systemic inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction among women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct;88(4):913-21.
8. Stein RA. Endothelial dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, and coronary heart disease: the pathophysiologic and clinical linkage. Rev Urol. 2003;5(Suppl 7):S21-S27.
9. Neely MD, Sidell KR, Graham DG, Montine TJ. The Lipid Peroxidation Product 4-Hydroxynonenal Inhibits Neurite Outgrowth, Disrupts Neuronal Microtubules, and Modifies Cellular Tubulin. Journal of Neurochemistry. 2002;72(6):2323-2333. doi:10.1046/j.1471-4159.1999.0722323.x.
Here is a wonderful article by Katie Wells at Wellness Mama, “Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oil or Margarine.
Here is another great article, from Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., entitled “Why Oil is Bad for You.” In my opinion, it should be entitled, “Why Vegetable Oil is Bad for You.”
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Also, have you or someone you know experienced a healing journey that involved removing vegetable oils and/or sugar from your diet, or that involved naturopathic medicine? If so, we’d love to hear your story. Submit your journey of healing today, and receive a personalized gift in the mail!