By Brad Lemley
Generally, I steer clear of tinfoil hat conspiracy tales.
But here’s a startling and quite credible story from the world of nutrition research that suggests either an idiotic omission or a sleazy coverup — one that every American who cares about his or her health should know about.
It was revealed by none other than the National Institutes of Health.
First, a bit of background. One of the most common modern foods is “vegetable oil.” It’s in fast food, commercial baked goods, chips and more.
“It’s sobering to imagine how much better Americans’ health might be today if these conclusions had been revealed.”
Sounds lovely. Vegetables are good for us, right? Indeed, they are, especially organic, leafy green varieties.
But “vegetable oil,” the familiar golden yellow liquid sold in the plastic bottle, is a marketing euphemism for soybean oil — or, to be more precise, GMO, glyphosate-pesticide-soaked, heat-and-solvent-extracted soybean oil.
Doesn’t sound so lovely…
Lovely, unnatural and ultimately toxic — the golden oils from soy, corn, canola, safflower and sunflower seeds.
A New, Strange Food
Soybean oil as a commercial foodstuff was introduced to the West roughly a century ago and has only several hundred years of use in Asia, which means we have virtually no evolutionary history with it. That’s reason enough to regard it as suspect when it comes to health.
Similarly, other industrial seed oils — canola, corn, safflower, sesame and sunflower oils — are also recent innovations, ones that require toxic-based, high-tech processing methods to extract.
But to Big Food, these new forms of fat have a fabulous advantage over the traditional types of fat that nourished human beings for millennia — they are insanely cheap to grow and manufacture compared with traditional cooking fats such as butter, lard and coconut oil. That’s why their use has skyrocketed.
Now, some mainstream health authorities, especially the American Heart Association, continue to insist that this type of oil is good for your heart. As its website proclaims:
“The American Heart Association recommends cooking oils lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol — such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil [the only decent oil in the list], safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.”
But Consider This…
A team of researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the University of North Carolina dug into previously unpublished data from a gigantic, decades-old study called the Minnesota Coronary Experiment.1
The documents were found in a dusty box in the home basement of Dr. Ivan Frantz Jr., one of the original researchers in the study. As The New York Times explained:
Dr. Frantz, who died in 2009, had been a prominent scientist at the university, where he studied the link between saturated fat and heart disease. One of his closest colleagues was Ancel Keys, an influential scientist whose research in the 1950s helped establish saturated fat as public health enemy No. 1, prompting the federal government to recommend low-fat diets to the entire nation.
Got that? Dr. Frantz was in league with the infamous Ancel Keys, whose “research” consisted of dodgy pro-carb, anti-fat data that has sickened and shortened the lives of millions worldwide.
But Dr. Frantz’s study wasn’t about carbs versus fat, but rather one type of fat versus another. It compared the heart disease risks of eating butter versus vegetable oil.
Half of his study’s participants ate meals rich in saturated fat from butter and other sources. The rest ate a diet in which the saturated fat was replaced with highly unsaturated corn oil.
A Blast from the Past
The trial took place from 1968–73 and included 9,000 people at Minnesota mental health and nursing home hospitals. Due to legal and ethical concerns, a huge trial like this would be impossible today.
Dr. Frantz and the study’s other authors concluded that there was “no differences between the treatment and control groups… for cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths or total mortality.”
But the new analysis, published in BMJ (which is the source of lots of good nutrition info these days, as the U.K.’s medical journals are not bought and paid for like many in the U.S.), found that even though the seed oil reduced cholesterol levels, people who ate it had a 15 percent higher risk of death compared with the butter eaters.
In other words, this latter-day analysis strongly suggests those researchers of 40 years ago cooked the greasy books.
Result: The butter eaters had higher cholesterol, but lived longer.
A Pattern of Deception
Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated event. A re-evaluation of a similar Australian study from 1966–73 also revealed — shocker — seed oils are actually bad for your life span.2
Exactly why these conclusions weren’t released 40 years ago isn’t known. But what’s clear today must have been equally clear then — they weren’t published for a reason.
“Seed oils may indeed lower cholesterol levels, but they do not lower death rates.”
Perhaps — and I don’t think a tinfoil chapeau is required here — it was because the profit potential of these toxic oils was just too high and no one wanted to rock the boat.
Whatever the reason, it’s sobering to imagine how much better Americans’ health might be today if these conclusions had not been covered up.
In fact, while many are now waking up to the dangers of copious sugar and wheat flour in the standard American diet, I am increasingly persuaded that these industrial seed oils are the most destructive commonly consumed foods of all.
Seed oils may indeed lower cholesterol levels, but they do not lower death rates — because, as I’ve pointed out for decades, lowering cholesterol may slightly drop heart attack risk for some people, but it raises risk of death from other causes, especially cancer.3
It is absolutely vital for your own health and the health of your loved ones to avoid industrial polyunsaturated seed oils as much as you possibly can. Here are three ways to do so:
1. Avoid eating in fast-food restaurants, where the deep-fat fryer — full of seldom-changed, highly oxidized, inflammatory soybean oil — coats foods with obesity-causing, carcinogenic compounds.
2. Avoid processed baked goods from the grocery store, which typically use this cheap fat as shortening.
3. Never, ever, purchase a bottle of “vegetable oil.” Similarly, never buy canola, corn, safflower, sesame or sunflower oils for home use. If you currently have any of these in your cupboards, pour them down the drain. Instead, begin using more saturated oils including olive oil or, best of all, coconut oil, nonhydrogenated lard (this brand is wonderful) and clarified butter (also known as ghee) for your cooking needs.
You don’t have to be nuts to believe that conspiracies are sometimes real. But you do have to be crazy not to change course once the truth is revealed. I promise to keep on top of this situation and diligently provide the latest information on the foods — including fats — associated with robust health.
- Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Majchrzak-hong S, et al. Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73). BMJ. 2016
- Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Leelarthaepin B, et al. Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013
- De lorgeril M, Salen P. New insights into the health effects of dietary saturated and omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. BMC Med. 2012