Health experts have pointed to several culprits in our diets as possible explanations for the rapidly increasing rates of chronic disease in industrialized countries, including sugar, saturated fats, and industrial seed oils.
Yet one commonly eaten food found in the diets of millions has received surprisingly little attention: industrial seed oils.
Contrary to what we have been told, industrial seed oils such as soy, canola, and corn oils are not " heart healthy " or beneficial to our bodies and brains; in fact, extensive research indicates that these oils are making us sick.
Read on to learn about the history of the industrial seed oil industry, the adverse health effects of consuming these oils, and what dietary fats you should consume as replacements.
What are industrial seed oils?
Unlike traditional fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, and lard, industrial seed oils are a very recent addition to the human diet.
In fact, industrial seed oils, highly processed oils extracted from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), cottonseed, and safflower seeds, were introduced into the American diet. just at the beginning of the 20th century.
So how did these oils come to occupy such an influential place not only in the standard American diet but in "westernized" diets around the world? The story is really strange.
In the 1870s, in Cincinnati, United States, two soap makers, William Procter and James Gamble, decided to start businesses together. While soap had historically been made from processed pork fat, Procter and Gamble were an innovative couple and decided to create a new type of soap from vegetable oils.
Around the same time, oil was discovered in Pennsylvania; I quickly replaced cottonseed oil, which had long been used for lighting, as a fuel source.
Cottonseed oil was simply put into the “toxic waste” category until the entrepreneurs Procter & Gamble realized that all that unwanted cottonseed oil could be used to make soap.
But there was another advantage that appealed to its commercial sensitivity: The oil could be chemically modified through a process called "hydrogenation" to turn it into a solid cooking fat that resembled lard.
This is how an oil previously classified as “toxic waste” became an integral part of the American diet when Crisco was introduced to the market in the early 1900s.
Soon, other vegetable oils were produced. Soybeans were introduced to the United States in the 1930s, and by the 1950s, it had become the most popular vegetable oil in the country. Canola, corn, and safflower oils appeared soon after.
The low cost of these cooking oils, combined with strategic marketing by oil manufacturers, made them very popular in American kitchens even though their use was unprecedented in human history.
Our modern lifestyle is wreaking havoc on our health. Whether it's our stress levels, our lack of sleep and movement, or nutrient-poor diets, many of us live in a way that negatively affects our health.
The industrial revolution brought us incredible efficiencies in production, but that has had a negative impact on the overall quality of much of the food available for consumption. The price we pay for consuming poor-quality foods, including industrial seed oils, is inflammation and the incidence of chronic disease.
Many dietary factors can contribute to inflammation. These include the consumption of industrial seed oils, but also the consumption of gluten and excess refined sugar.
The effect of these foods on our health can range from having less energy and more brain fog to the development of debilitating chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and greater complications in managing diabetes.
How are industrial seed oils made?
The general process used to create industrial seed oils is anything but natural. Oils extracted from soybeans, corn, cottonseed, safflower seeds, and rapeseed must be refined, bleached, and deodorized before they are fit for human consumption.
· First, seeds are collected from the soybean, corn, cotton, safflower and rapeseed plants.
· The seeds are then heated to extremely high temperatures; This causes the unsaturated fatty acids in the seeds to oxidize, creating by-products that are harmful to human and animal health.
· The seeds are then processed with a petroleum-based solvent, such as hexane, to maximize the amount of oil extracted from them.
· Industrial seed oil manufacturers then use chemicals to deodorize the oils, which have a very unpleasant odor once extracted. The deodorization process produces trans fats, which are known to be quite harmful to human health.
· Finally, more chemicals are added to improve the color of industrial seed oils.
Together, industrial seed oil processing creates an energy-dense, nutrient-poor oil that contains chemical residues, trans fats, and oxidized by-products.
From toxic waste to ' good for the heart ': the story of seed oils
How did industrial seed oils go from being classified as “toxic waste” to enjoying the title of “heart healthy” fats? The story involves a scandalous combination of donations to medical organizations, dubious scientific research, and unsubstantiated marketing claims.
In the late 1940s, a small group of cardiologists who were members of the relatively new American Heart Association (AHA) received a $ 1.5 million donation from Procter & Gamble.
Thanks to this generous cash transfer from the creators of Crisco, the AHA now had sufficient funds to grow its national profile as a physician organization dedicated to heart health.
He was also quick to endorse industrial seed oils, more nicely referred to as "vegetable oils," as a healthier alternative to traditional animal fats.
Around the same time, an ambitious physiologist and researcher named Ancel Keys presented his diet and lipid hypothesis, in which he presented data that seemed to suggest a link between saturated fat and cholesterol intake and heart disease.
Since animal fats are a rich source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet, they quickly became the object of ridicule for him.
Citing animal fats as "unhealthy," Keys recommended consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which preliminary research had associated with lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Keys's conclusions were in tune with the motives of the industrial seed oil industry: to get people to consume more seed oils! Soon margarine that was advertised as "heart healthy" (a solid form of vegetable oil) and other seed oils became common, and traditional, healthy fats were forgotten.
While Keys's lipid hypothesis is now known to be based on flawed research, his ideas nonetheless permeated the medical community.
Soon, many medical organizations, including the National Cholesterol Education Program and the National Institutes of Health, had joined the movement against animal fat.
He then echoed the AHA's advice that people should avoid animal fat and instead consume polyunsaturated vegetable oils like Crisco and other butters, soybean oil, and corn oil.
This confluence of mutual events and interests led to the radical substitution of natural dietary fats like lard and butter with unsaturated industrial seed oils, indelibly changing the makeup of the American (and eventually global) food landscape.
Only in recent years has the validity of health claims associated with industrial seed oils been seriously questioned. A 2014 meta-analysis found no overall health benefit from reducing saturated fat or increasing PUFA levels in vegetable oils.
Also, the evidence does not support current dietary guidelines that urge people to replace saturated fats with vegetable oils.
6 reasons why industrial seed oils are terrible for your health
There are six main problems with industrial seed oils:
1. The consumption of industrial seed oils represents an evolutionary mismatch.
2. Eating industrial seed oils increases our ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and has significant consequences for our health.
3. Industrial seed oils are unstable and oxidize easily.
4. They contain harmful additives.
5. They are derived from genetically modified crops.
6. When industrial seed oils are repeatedly heated, even more toxic by-products are created.
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