How the Cholesterol Theory Created a Sickness Epidemic
Vegetable Oil Should Not Be Heated
Vegetable oils contain mostly heat-sensitive polyunsaturated fats. When heated, these fragile fats turn into toxic compounds including trans fat.258 The heat sensitivity issue means that all processed vegetable oils, and all products that contain vegetable oil, necessarily contain trans fat. Canola oil degrades so rapidly that a testing company, needing to find the purest canola oil to use as a standard against which other oils could be compared, couldn’t locate any canola oil even from pharmaceutical-grade manufacturers with a trans fat content lower than 1.2 percent.
This means that vegetable oil, and products made from vegetable oil, contain trans fat—even when the label seems to guarantee them trans free. But because heat so readily distorts their fatty acids, vegetable oil and products made from vegetable oil also contain something that is worse for us than trans. Before we get to that, I’d like to take a moment to compare and contrast the various fatty acids and their ability to handle heat.
Who Can Take the Heat? Cooking-Fat Basics
For the purposes of cooking, we want to pick the kinds of fats that can take heat. On that count, saturated fats (present in butter, coconut oil, lard, and traditional fats) win hands down. Why? Because they can resist a kind of heat-related damage called oxidation. Thanks to their shape, saturated fats have no room for oxygen to squeeze in, and even high heat can’t force these tough molecules to be more accommodating. Monounsaturated fats have room for just one oxygen molecule to sneak in. But it’s not easy, so monounsaturated fat-rich olive oil resists the harmful oxygen-induced molecular rearrangements and is still okay to cook with. Polyunsaturated fat—now that’s another story. Polyunsaturated fat has two places where oxygen can chemically react, which makes oxygen not twice as likely to bind with the fat molecule, but billions of times more likely. This exponential increase in reactivity with oxygen is true of molecules generally, not just fats. TNT (trinitrotoluene) has six places where oxygen can react, making it so reactive it’s literally explosive! But we’re not cooking with explosives in our frying pans, are we? Actually, in a sense, we are, though on a slightly less dramatic scale. And it is those explosive oxidative reactions that we need to avoid.
The oils extracted from seeds that get processed into vegetable oils are composed primarily of polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. If you want to remember which type of fatty acid most readily reacts with oxygen, just remember this: “PUFAs go Poof!”
Biology makes use of this reactivity. Enzymes in plants and animals fuse oxygen to polyunsaturated fats on purpose to change them from one shape to another. For example, fish oil isn’t anti-inflammatory per se. Enzymes in the human body oxidize the PUFAs in fish oil to convert them into specific compounds that turn off pro-inflammatory enzymes. But this mutability also means polyunsaturated fats are more capable of being accidentally altered, and thus heat is a threat to their utility.
NATURE DOESN’T MAKE BAD FATS
One of the fundamental concepts of this book is that physical beauty isn’t, as it turns out, in the eye of the beholder. Beautiful living things are the manifestations of the immutable laws of natural growth, rules grounded in mathematics. These rules apply everywhere, even at the molecular level.
Biomolecules, including fatty acids, cholesterol, and DNA, typically twist into either hexagonal or pentagonal configurations to facilitate their interaction with each other and with water. Processing distorts the fatty acids in vegetable oil so they can no longer assume the typical five- or six-sided geometry. Like Chinese finger traps, our enzymes pick up these distorted fatty acids and then can’t let them go, which hampers cellular function so profoundly it can kill your cells. And if you eat enough trans fats, cellular dysfunction will impair so many cells in so many tissues that the cumulative effects will disrupt basic functions (like blood circulation or your body’s ability to fight infection) and eventually kill you. Vegetable oils rarely kill children, but they can disrupt normal metabolism so profoundly that a child’s dynamic symmetry is lost, and their skeletal proportions become imbalanced.
No food represents such a full spectrum of molecules—from healthy to distorted and extremely toxic—as fat. Good fats are some of the best foods you can eat. And some of the healthiest, most robust people on the planet live in cultures whose diets are highly dependent on natural fats, like animal fat. But take those good-fat foods away and replace them with foods high in refined carbohydrates and distorted fats, and the same problems we have in our country begin to crop up around the world: weight gain, heart troubles, mood disorders, other chronic diseases, newborn children exhibiting organ and facial deformation, and other hallmarks of physical degeneration. So far, establishment medicine blames milk and meat. But I blame toxic, distorted fats (and sugar). Fortunately, the principle behind avoiding toxic, distorted fats is easy to remember: Eat natural fats and avoid processed ones. This formula works because nature doesn’t make bad fats; factories do.