Oil has been encouraged as a healthy part of the diet by mainstream nutritional advice and guidance. However, there is an unavoidable, undeniable inkling that oil is not the ‘health food’ that it is often made out to be. The highly processed, refined, manufactured, unnatural oil consumed nowadays is mostly devoid of nutritional value and any kind of ‘health benefits.’ It is, in fact, hard for the body to process due to the unnatural extraction of the oil from the whole foods found in nature.
“All oils and pure-fat products are entirely unnatural…Pure bottled oils and packaged solid fats are man-made, chemically or mechanically refined components of whole foods that do not naturally exist in nature in this refined state.” (1)
The fact that our body requires these synthetic, processed fatty acids for brain and heart function seems debatable at least.
These synthetic, processed oils are the only foods that are 100% fat. Most oils have at least 100 calories per tablespoon which is likely to be a quarter or more of the meal it is added to if only one tablespoon of oil is added. Oils are the “most energy dense foods known” (1). Oils are highly likely to be a high-ranking cause of weight gain. Most oil, particularly saturated oil, is either stored as fat or in the arteries because unsaturated oil can be partially converted to saturated oil in the body (2). So, it cannot be considered an aid to weight loss, but only a hindrance to avoiding weight gain and losing weight.
Saturated fat is without a doubt less healthy than unsaturated fat. Animal fats and highly processed trans-fat are high in cholesterol and clog arteries which leads to heart disease. This has been proven by an enormous multitude of studies with evidence. Some examples of such studies include (3), (4), (5), and (6). The fact that animal fats cause weight gain and increase the likelihood of disease should not be debatable.
However, polyunsaturated oils (grapeseed oil, soybean oil) and monounsaturated oil (olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil) are often revered as the ‘healthy’ alternative and the ‘only’ alternative to saturated fat. Is it just me or does this not seem accurate? There has been a definitive link found between high-fat diets and cancer. Does this not mean all sources of fat, particularly refined fat? A few examples of studies that display this link include (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), and (12). Multiple studies suggest that, for many types of cancer, total fat intake (although mostly saturated fat) increases the risk and progression of the disease.
Further evidence that ‘healthy’ oils may be a myth can be found. There is evidence that total fat intake of polyunsaturated fat (13) and even specifically omega 3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil may increase the risk of heart disease (14). Perhaps it can be concluded that there is not enough evidence to prove that any oils are healthy, although there have been attempts to prove unsaturated oils are an essential health food due to their content of essential fatty acids. It seems that there is less disease if you consume unsaturated fat rather than saturated fat, but this has not been compared with consuming zero unnatural fats in any well-known studies. So, it is not known whether unsaturated oils improve or worsen disease in comparison to an oil-free diet.
An oil-free diet could be the ideal solution to prevent the risk of disease, avoid weight gain, and ensure that the authentic, bona fide fats are consumed in their natural form. Healthy sources of fat in whole and natural foods include avocadoes, all nuts, all seeds, durian, and cocoa. An oil-free diet is particularly important for preserving vitality, as “unsaturated fats become unstable at high temperatures, oils exposed to heat could have more free radicals and, thus, cause greater cellular damage when ingested” (15). It is very possible to avoid oil in cooking by sautéing or steaming vegetables on the stove and baking vegetables in the oven, rather than frying or roasting them in oil. Herbs, spices, lime juice, garlic, and nuts or seeds are all great additions for flavour and texture. After a while, you will be able to observe that there can be enjoyment in tasting the simple foods without an oily flavour and texture!
Also, next time you think that vegan margarine is healthier than butter, it is packed with trans-fat and barren of healthy nutrients so think again!
“Oils…Empty calories at best, carcinogenic junk foods at worst. Across the board, refined oil (including coconut, flax, olive, hemp, almond, borange, and the like, which are touted as ‘pure’ or ‘special’ because of their source or careful processing methods) are essentially empty calories, not fit for consumption. They are stripped of the fiber, protein, and carbohydrates that accompanied the whole foods from which they derived, leaving an unbalanced fractional product.” (16)
- Campbell, T., 2015. The Campbell Plan. 1st ed. New York: Rodale, pp.60-61.
- Graham, D., 2010. The 80/10/10 Diet. 3rd ed. Key Largo, FL: FoodnSport Press, pp.125-126.
- Willett, W., 2012. Dietary fats and coronary heart disease. Journal of Internal Medicine, [online] 272(1), pp.13-24. Available at: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2012.02553.x> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Seven Countries Study. 2020. Saturated Fat, Serum Cholesterol And Coronary Heart Disease. [online] Available at: <https://www.sevencountriesstudy.com/saturated-fat-and-coronary-heart-disease/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Heileson, J., 2019. Dietary saturated fat and heart disease: a narrative review. Nutrition Reviews, [online] 78(6), pp.474-485. Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/78/6/474/5678770> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Katan, M., Brouwer, I., Clarke, R., Geleijnse, J. and Mensink, R., 2010. Saturated fat and heart disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 92(2), pp.459-460. Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/92/2/459/4597396> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Sieri, S., Chiodini, P., Agnol, C. and Pala, V. et al., 2014. Dietary Fat Intake and Development of Specific Breast Cancer Subtypes. Journal of the national cancer institute, [online] 106(5). Available at: <https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/106/5/dju068/2607154> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Shetty, P. and Sreedharan, J., 2019. Breast Cancer and Dietary Fat Intake: A correlational study. Nepal Journal of Epidemiology, [online] 9 (4), pp.812-816. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6964800/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Carroll, K.K., Gammal, E.B., and Plunkett, E.R. Dietary fat and mammary cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal 1968; 98: 590-594.
- Han, J., Jiang, Y., Liu, X. and Meng, Q. et al., 2015. Dietary Fat Intake and Risk of Gastric Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. PLoS One, [online] 10(9), p.e0138580. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4581710/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Qiu, W., Lu, H., Qi, Y. and Wang, X., 2016. Dietary fat intake and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. Oncotarget, [online] 7(24), pp.37390-37406. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5095084/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Food Consumer. 2017. Dietary Fat May Raise Risk Of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. [online] Available at: <https://foodconsumer.org/16/safety/chemical/dietary-fat-may-raise-risk-non-hodgkin-lymphoma/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Blankenhorn, D.H., Johnson R.L., Mack W.J., El Zein, H.A., and Vailas, L.I. The influence of diet on the appearance of new lesions in human coronary arteries. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 1990; 263: 1646-1652.
- Burr M. L. Secondary Prevention of CHD in UK men: The Diet and Reinfarction Trial and its sequel. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2007; 66: 9-15.
- Houghton, T., 2020. New To An Oil-Free Diet? Here’s What You Need To Know. [online] Center for Nutrition Studies. Available at: <https://nutritionstudies.org/new-to-an-oil-free-diet-heres-what-you-need-to-know/> [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Graham, D., 2010. The 80/10/10 Diet. 3rd ed. Key Largo, FL: FoodnSport Press, p.130.