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The Case Against Processed Vegetable Oils

Dr. Paul Saladino is the author of “The Carnivore Code.” I’ve previously interviewed him about the carnivore diet and the impact of metabolic health on COVID-19 outcomes. The video1 above features Saladino on a recent episode of the Joe Rogan podcast.

It’s a three-hour conversation, but my focus here is on Saladino’s viewpoints on omega-6 seed oils, and the surprising fact that conventional chicken and pork are significant stealth sources of oxidized omega-6 fats that can contribute to ill health by impairing vital mitochondrial signaling.

Vegetable Oils Are Responsible for Epidemic of Ill Health 

In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that one of the most damaging components in our modern diet is processed vegetable oils, as they contain excessive amounts of oxidized omega-6 linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). The biological damage they cause is even worse than that caused by refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup. 

According to ophthalmologist Dr. Chris Knobbe, who has researched the matter extensively, virtually all chronic metabolic and degenerative diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, are primarily caused by a preponderance of industrial vegetable oils in the diet.

The reason for this is because these oils trigger mitochondrial dysfunction that then drives the disease process, and several studies2,3,4,5,6,7,8 have demonstrated the truth of this. The good news is that simply replacing dangerous oils with healthy saturated fats can go a long way toward boosting your health and reducing your risk of chronic disease. 

Unfortunately, many health authorities have insisted — and still insist — omega-6-rich oils like soybean, corn and canola oil are healthier than saturated animal fats such as butter and lard, and this myth has been a tough one to dismantle, despite the evidence against it. 

How Processed Vegetable Oils Harm Your Health

There are many reasons to avoid or eliminate industrially processed seed oils from your diet. As mentioned, vegetable oils are a concentrated source of omega-6 linoleic acid, which can lead to a severe imbalance between the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in your diet. 

In fact, I’ve found it is extremely difficult to correct this imbalance simply by taking more omega-3. In fact, excess omega-3 can also contribute to ill health. Your first and most important step is to cut down on the omega-6s, or else you’re always going to be nutritionally lopsided. 

Even organic, biodynamic olive oil can shift your ratio in the wrong direction, as olive oil is also a source of omega-6 linoleic acid. If, like me, you’re in the habit of eating olive oil, you may want to limit your intake to 1 tablespoon per day or less. The problem, really, is twofold:

  1. Most people get far too much omega-6 and too little omega-3, thus ending up with a lopsided ratio, and this ratio is what impacts health. Ideally, this ratio would be close to 1-to-1 
  2. Most of the omega-6 people eat has been damaged and oxidized through processing 

Then there’s the issue of direct toxicity from pesticides and herbicides. Most of the vegetable oils produced today — especially canola, corn and soy — are made from genetically engineered (GE) crops, and are therefore a significant source of toxic glyphosate exposure.

Thirdly, vegetable oils degrade to extremely toxic oxidation products when heated, including 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE) cyclic aldehydes,9 which are what cause oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) associated with heart disease. Aldehydes also crosslink tau protein and create neurofibrillary tangles, thereby contributing to the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Processed vegetable oils also harm health by: 

Increasing inflammation.10

Damaging the endothelium (the cells lining your blood vessels) and causing an increase in penetration of LDL and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles into the subendothelium. In other words, these oils get integrated in your cell and mitochondrial membranes, and once these membranes are impaired, it sets the stage for all sorts of health problems.

As discussed in my July 2020 interview with Knobbe, the PUFAs from vegetable oils, seed oils and trans fats are primarily stored in your fat cells, opposed to being used for fuel, and have a half-life of 600 to 680 days.11 They also get incorporated into tissues, including your heart and brain. 

One result of this could be memory impairment and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, which is exactly what they found with canola oil.12 As reported in one 2017 study:13

“Our findings do not support a beneficial effect of chronic canola oil consumption on two important aspects of AD pathophysiology which includes memory impairments as well as synaptic integrity. While more studies are needed, our data do not justify the current trend aimed at replacing olive oil with canola oil.”

Damaging your mitochondria and DNA by making your cell membranes more permeable, allowing things to enter that shouldn’t.

Making the cell membrane less fluid, which impacts hormone transporters in the cell membrane and slows your metabolic rate.

Inhibiting cardiolipin, an important component of the inner membrane of your mitochondria that needs to be saturated in the omega-3 fat DHA to function properly. 

Cardiolipin can be likened to a cellular alarm system that triggers apoptosis (cell death) by signaling caspase-3 when something goes wrong with the cell. If the cardiolipin is not saturated with DHA, it cannot signal caspase-3, and hence apoptosis does not occur. As a result, dysfunctional cells are allowed to continue to grow, which can turn into a cancerous cell.

Inhibiting the removal of senescent cells, i.e., aged, damaged or crippled cells that have lost the ability to reproduce and produce inflammatory cytokines that rapidly accelerate disease and aging.

Stripping your liver of glutathione (which produces antioxidant enzymes), thereby lowering your antioxidant defenses.14

Inhibiting delta-6 desaturase (delta-6), an enzyme involved in the conversion of short-chained omega-3s to longer chained omega-3s in your liver.15

Exposing you to toxic 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE), which forms during the processing of most vegetable oils, even if the oil is obtained from organic crops — 4HNE is highly toxic, especially to your gut bacteria, and consumption of 4HNE has been correlated with having an obesogenic balance of gut flora. It also causes DNA damage and instigates free radical cascades that damage your mitochondrial membranes.16