Are vegetable oils healthy? Can they help us reduce heart disease and live longer? Or do they trigger inflammation and cause cancer? Arguments have been made from both sides.
Now, a new meta-analysis provides more evidence for putting them in the “healthy” category, or at least in the “not being harmful” category. The paper was a review of multiple observational studies and concluded that a higher intake of linoleic acid is associated with lower risk of heart disease and death.
Can this study prove that linoleic acid is helpful and protective? No, it cannot. But can it suggest that maybe vegetable oils aren’t uniformly toxic and harmful to the general population? That seems like a more reasonable conclusion.
As a refresher, linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) commonly found in industrial seed oils and highly processed foods, but also found in smaller amounts in natural foods like nuts and seeds. PUFAs have attracted attention recently as a potential contributor to chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and a possible increased risk of cancer.
As we reviewed in our evidence based guide on vegetable oils, the data are conflicting regarding their long-term impact on health. Mechanistic studies suggest they increase inflammation, reactive oxygen species, and if you have ever seen vegetable oils being made, you can see how they are at odds with our evolutionary history. Despite this, clinical trial evidence does not show a clear increase in inflammation, nor does it show a clear increased risk of cancer or other chronic medical conditions.
So, what does this new review show? For starters, it was a large statistical undertaking including 38 studies and 811,000 people assessed by dietary assessment (mostly food frequency questionnaires which we have commented on previously regarding their inherent inaccuracies) and 65,000 people assessed with biomarker measurements such as linoleic acid concentrations in fat cells. Those who consumed the highest amount of linoleic acid had a modest 13% relative reduction in risk of all cause mortality and heart disease death compared to the lowest consumers.
As we have mentioned before, nutritional observational studies with small risk benefits are weak studies that are complicated by potential errors, and therefore should not be used to conclude that something is beneficial or not. However, can a study like this prove, or at a minimum suggest, that linoleic acid is not generally harmful? That is the much more interesting question surrounding this study.
In light of this new review, the claim that PUFA oils are harmful may be getting weaker.
Personally, I will continue to eat whole, naturally occurring foods and few processed oils and recommend my patients do the same. But do I have strong evidence to support that? No, I don’t. But I also do not have strong evidence to say we should eat more PUFAs. Thus, this study is interesting but too weak in quality to move the needle.
In “What if we’re wrong about type 2 diabetes” we look at mainstream healthcare messages that say type 2 diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that can’t be reversed. But is this true? Do people with type 2 diabetes have to suffer for the rest of their lives? Are there ways to reverse this disease?
Dr. Benjamin Bikman, an expert in metabolic disorder research has so much insight to share on protein, insulin and glucagon on a low carb diet and how different it is on our physiology then when consuming protein on a Standard American Diet (SAD) or high carb diets. We explore optimal fat burning, prioritizing protein intake as well as how keto lowers insulin so that the metabolism can be boosted, if gluconeogenesis is demand or supply driven, as well as the actual caloric value of ketones!
I believe the calorie theory of obesity has been perhaps one of the greatest failures in the history of medicine. It is based on a complete misinterpretation of the energy balance equation.
Body fat gained = Calories in – Calories out
This equation, known as the energy balance equation is always true. So, looking at this equation, people then say something like ‘It’s all about restricting the calories you eat’, or ‘All diets work by restricting calories’. On the Calories Out side, you hear things like ‘You should exercise more’. This is the standard Eat Less, Move More approach. Doctors, even obesity experts and various health professionals say stuff like this all the time, but they’re wrong. The problem is that they don’t know why they’re so wrong.
Eat fewer calories, burn fewer calories
The energy balance equation (which, yes, is always true) does NOT support the Eat Less, Move More approach. Huh? Let me explain. You can also watch my recent video from NBC here.
Let’s throw some numbers into the mix to make things more clear. Let us assume the baseline situation of stable body weight (zero body fat gained or lost) and 2000 calories per day intake.0 body fat = 2000 calories in – 2000 calories out Calories Out is not just exercise. This is composed of 2 things – resting energy expenditure, or basal metabolic rate (BMR) and exercise. If you assume zero exercise, an average BMR is 2000 calories per day. This energy is used by the heart, lungs, kidneys, generation of body heat etc. Note that BMR is NOT under conscious control. You cannot ‘decide’ that your heart will pump more blood. You cannot ‘decide’ to generate more body heat. No amount of willpower will make your kidneys use more energy.
Exercise is generally a very small portion of the total daily expenditure, unless you are exercising multiple hours in the day. Consider a moderate exercise of 1 hour of moderate walking/ jogging, 3 times per week. Each walk burns approximately 100-200 calories. If you’ve ever exercised on a treadmill with a calorie counter, you’ll know how slowly that meter rises. That 100 calories used during exercise pales in comparison to the 2000 calories eaten on an average day. So, we can safely ignore the effect of exercise except for those who do in excess of 1 hour per day.
So, people suppose that if you decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week, that you will lose 1 pound of fat per week assuming that 1 pound of fat contains roughly 3500 calories.-500 calories = 1500 calories in – 2000 calories out
Please take careful note that in order to lose body fat, Calories Out MUST remain stable. Must. Must. But this is precisely what we know to be FALSE for at least the last 100 years. BMR may increase or decrease 30-40%. This was shown as early as 1917, when studies showed that a reduction of calorie intake by 30% is quickly met by a decrease in BMR by 30%.
Dr. Ancel Keys showed much the same effect in his famous Minnesota ‘starvation study’. Despite the title, subjects were given 1570 calories per day, more than most weight loss regimens being prescribed today. A drop in calories eaten by 40% is met with a 40% drop in BMR.
The reason for this is simple. Your body is very smart and does not want to die. If you do not alter your hormones (predominantly insulin), you won’t be able to access your fat stores. If you can’t get energy from body fat, then then you cannot run an energy deficit forever. If you are only taking in 1500 calories, you can only spend 1500 calories.
So BMR drops. We’ve known this for over a century. If you cut a few calories every day, your body will burn less calories and you will not lose fat. Weight loss plateaus and then you start to regain weight. So, counting calories, as a strategy for weight loss, has been proven over and over again to fail.
Strategies that lower insulin, however (low carb, intermittent fasting) are completely different. By lowering insulin, we tell our bodies that there is no food coming in. Therefore, the body switches from burning the calories from food, to burning the calories from our body fat. Our body wants to burn 2000 calories, but it just gets them from body fat instead of food. Instead of restricting energy (calories), our body is switching fuel sources, from food to stored food (body fat). But this can only happen if we correct the underlying hormonal problem of excessive insulin. So is ‘Calories In Calories Out’ totally useless? Well, not totally.
Is counting calories completely futile?
You may have heard of or received an email offer for the Nigerian Phishing (email fraud) scam. The story goes like this. A few years ago, some crooks would send out millions of emails to potential marks (victims). The emails would say that they were an exiled Nigerian prince that was forced to flee out of his home country. He had $10 kajillion dollars in the bank and offered to split it with you if you would only give him your banking information. In other scams, the crooks would ask for money. Send them $1000 dollars and then they could go to the bank, retrieve their $10 billion and give you $2 billion as a thank you. The scam became well known as a fraud and most people recognized it immediately so they simply deleted the email.
However, contrary to what you might expect, the scam did not disappear. I still receive these emails on a regular basis, and they even keep the Nigerian prince rather than change it to, for example, an Indonesian princess. Since almost everybody has heard of this scam, what was the point?
Crooks could immediately identify potential marks by sending out this particular scam. If the crooks made up a new scam, they would receive many replies to their email, but most of them would not be gullible enough to hand over actual cash. By keeping the Nigerian prince scam, they could immediately and efficiently identify the most gullible people who would hand over cash. In this way, the Nigerian prince scam is a great marker for gullibility.
The Calories In/ Calories Out (CICO) model performs the same task for me. The CICO model has been tested over and over again. Multiple trials have shown it to be a complete failure. If somebody vociferously defends the CICO paradigm, I can immediately and efficiently identify them as people who have not really understood what causes obesity, and have no serious grasp of the physiology behind weight gain. These are the people who keep parroting ‘A calorie is a calorie’, as if I had asked them ‘Is a calorie a calorie’? The question I ask is ‘Are all calories equally fattening’, to which they usually stare blankly at me, before replying ‘It’s all about calories’, as if the body had any actual method of measuring calories.
The CICO model is very useful because it efficiently flags people who are not all that knowledgable about obesity, and I can safely ignore them. There are many of these people out there, and not everybody is worth listening to.
Source: Article by Dr Jason Fung (https://www.dietdoctor.com/why-theres-more-to-weight-loss-than-restricting-calories)
Do you have aches, pains, gout, kidney stones or other symptoms that are getting worse instead of better? Are you eating and living well but confused because you still feel lousy?You might have something you’ve never heard of – oxalate poisoning.
Sally Norton (@sknorton), MPH is an expert in oxalates – a plant toxin found in many common “health” foods such as spinach and almonds that can cause many health disorders. Sally has a degree in nutrition from Cornell University and a Masters of Public Health from the University of North Carolina. She managed a five-year, National Institute of Health-funded program at the UNC Medical School.
Sally & I discuss:
Her background and health journey
How she found out about oxalates
What oxalates are, why they’re harmful, and how they affect our bodies
Sources of oxalates in foods
My personal oxalate detox experience
How to detox from oxalates
And much more!
Highest Oxalate Foods: Spinach, Potatoes, Soy & Great Northern Beans, Almond Milk, Nuts, Carrots, Celery, Beets, Chocolate & Black Tea.
Today Dr. Mike Eades joins me for a really great and comprehensive interview. I’ve been following his work for many years and always enjoy his presentations that can be found on YouTube. We got to hang out all weekend in Denver a little ways back and I got to see another of his amazing presentations live talking about what humans evolved to eat and what happened as we strayed away from that diet. It’s shocking stuff and sure to ruffle the feathers of every single mainstream doctor, dietitian, and nutritionist around. We go over this and much of his other work in this interesting episode.
Dr. Michael Eades is a physician who has over 30 years of experience in bariatric, nutritional, and metabolic medicine. He is also the co-author (with his wife Dr. Mary Dan Eades) of 14 books in the fields of health, nutrition, and exercise over the last several decades––among them the New York Times best seller Protein Power and The Protein Power LifePlan which laid out one of the first nutritional concepts of the paleo lifestyle.
[5:05] Some noted evidence of meat eating since the dawn of man until now from Dr. Eades.
[13:30] Our brains are our weapon.
[20:20] Hunter gatherers’ health vs agriculturists.
[26:05] How the Egyptians’ wheat based diet destroyed their health.
[40:20] Eades’ take on the history of obesity in the US.
[49:35] How PUFAs play a role in the obesity crisis.
[58:10] The role incretins play in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Watch this presentation if you want to dive deeper and see the graphics that go along with it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMO-5mq3crU
[1:11:30] Why he advocates alternate day fasting.
[1:12:55] His experimentation with a continuous glucose monitor.
Dr. Chris Knobbe is an esteemed eye physician and surgeon in Boulder, Colorado and currently leads the Cure AMD Foundation. Cure AMD Foundation seeks to spread the message regarding his research that AMD (Age-related macular degeneration) is caused by “Westernization of the diet”. Luckily, he has a theory that macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness, is not only preventable but also treatable with the implementation of an ancestral diet. He came to this conclusion when he left his full-time practice to commit his time to numerous years of full-time investigative research on nutrition. He now shares his breakthrough findings on this and the harms of industrial seed oils through presentations across the country as well as scientific papers and books. You can learn more at cureamd.org
He did an amazing presentation in Denver recently and has really brought a lot of new information to the table when it comes to the industrial seed oils being the root of all evil! I’m not even exaggerating that much. Populations can be healthy on almost any diet on the planet until the high omega 6 seed oils come into the picture. These go along with processed foods of course, and the refined grains and sugar. But maybe the seed oils are the real X factor. Long time listeners will be familiar with this concept from episode 20 with Tucker Goodrich who did an eye opening interview on this same topic. Go back and check this one out and make sure to start at episode 1 to get the full download of all this super valuable health info.
So make sure to balance your omega 3s to omega 6s and definitely don’t eat oxidized vegetable oils which are even worse – the ones they use in deep fryers that are reused and kept at super high temperatures. Pork and chicken have gotten a bad rap in our health community, and rightly so, because they are usually super high in omega 6 compared to omega 3.
[7:07] Chris’s battle with arthritis and how he fixed it.
[9:12] Processed seed oils are the major culprit for many chronic diseases.
[10:12] Westernization of our diets.
[17:42] The rise of seed oils and why they are so harmful.
[21:42] Why omega-6 linoleic acids are so bad for us.
[25:12] The prevalence of heart disease and how seed oils play a huge role.
[33:12] In 2010, seed oils represented 32.5% of the standard american diet.
[34:32] Four major problems from vegetable oils.
[36:32] What it means when a molecule is proxidative.
[40:37] Omega-6 fats drive insulin resistance by breaking down the electron transport chain of the mitochondria.
[46:52] Toxicity and how it relates to seed oils.
[50:57] There is no relationship between total cholesterol and heart disease.
[52:47] LDL cholesterol, heart disease, and lifespan.
[54:22] 80% of all olive oils are often adulterated with cheap seed oils.
[58:52] Anecdotes of tribes who ‘should’ have chronic disease but are actually some of the healthiest.
[1:10:37] Why Chris is a fan of a low-carb diet.
[1:14:42] AMD is the third leading cause of blindness in the world.
[1:18:22] How diet affects AMD.
[1:21:17] How aging and genetics plays less of a role in AMD than some professionals think.
[1:25:24] Vitamin A, D, K2 deficiency are all driving AMD.
LDL cholesterol is one of the most controversial topics in the low carb world. On the one hand, conventional teaching is that elevated LDL is dangerous and needs to be lowered. On the other hand, otherwise healthy individuals following a low carb lifestyle have not been represented in our available data. How do we reconcile what to do?
Dr. Ron Krauss helps us understand the nuances beyond LDL-C and how we can use all the available data to help us better understand what we know and do not know about cholesterol, including LDL, HDL, triglycerides and Lp(a).
So, the other day I was talking with this senior researcher at MIT. Man, I can’t believe I finally got to say that! It’s been #184 on my unofficial bucket list for, like, ever. Now to cross off #185 . . . does anybody know where I can find a cranberry bog?
Back to the subject at hand, though. I contacted Dr. Stephanie Seneff after hearing her speak on Nutrition and Metabolism at the Wise Traditions conference last year. Dr. Seneff is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She holds a B.S. degree in Biophysics, M.S. and E.E. degrees in Electrical Engineering, and a Ph.D in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, all from MIT.
Anyway, during her presentation Micah and I were in a rather rowdy toddler room with the sound piped in, but I thought I heard her say that Vitamin D3 supplements may not offer the same benefits of Vitamin D created from sun exposure. But she couldn’t have said that, right? Vitamin D supplements are sunshine in a bottle!
Dr. Seneff recently confirmed via email that she doesn’t believe Vitamin D supplements convey the same benefits as sun exposure. According to her, it’s what happens right before our bodies make vitamin D that makes all the difference: the oxidation of cholesterol and sulfur on our skin. (Before we jump in, please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and this site does not provide medical advice. Please see my full disclaimer here. Okay, back to the post!)
Both cholesterol and sulfur afford protection in the skin from radiation damage to the cell’s DNA, the kind of damage that can lead to skin cancer. Cholesterol and sulfur become oxidized upon exposure to the high frequency rays in sunlight, thus acting as antioxidants to ‘take the heat,’ so to speak. Oxidation of cholesterol is the first step in the process by which cholesterol transforms itself into vitamin D3.” (source)
This process yields Vitamin D sulfate, which according to Dr. Seneff is vastly different than plant-based Vitamin D2 and animal-based Vitamin D3.
Upon exposure to the sun, the skin synthesizes vitamin D3 Sulfate, a form of vitamin D that, unlike unsulfated vitamin D3, is water soluble. As a consequence, it can travel freely in the blood stream rather than encapsulated inside LDL (the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol) for transport. The form of vitamin D that is present in both human milk and raw cow’s milk is vitamin D3 sulfate (pasteurization destroys it in cow’s milk).” (emphasis mine, source)
The transformation of sulfur into sulfate is essential to good health because “it populates the extracellular matrix proteins of all the cells and keeps them healthy,” says Seneff. “It’s especially important in the blood for keeping microbes at bay . . . which is why it appears that vitamin D builds a stronger immune system (I don’t think this is correct –I think it’s the sulfate that gets produced in the skin upon sunlight exposure that protects the immune system, and the vitamin D is just an indirect measure of sunlight exposure — that is, unless you get your vitamin D predominantly from supplements).” (emphasis mine, source)
But, Surely . . .
The body can convert D3 supplements into D3 sulfate, right? Unfortunately, though our bodies are genius chemists that does not appear to be possible. Synthesis of cholesterol into D3 and sulfur into sulfate occur simultaneously, like mixing eggs and flour/salt/water to bake a cake. You can’t put the eggs in the oven, bake at 350F for 45 minutes and then pull out the pan and add the flour, right? Same thing here.
Interestingly, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D3 sulfate are each beneficial in their own way. For example, plain old D3 is amazing at transporting calcium through the body, whereas:
The sulfated form of vitamin D does not work for calcium transport . . . [However] it’s the sulfated form of vitamin D that offers the protection from cancer. It strengthens your immune system. It protects you from cardiovascular disease. It’s good for your brain. It helps depression. I think all of those effects of vitamin D are effects of vitamin D sulfate.”
Sounds pretty good, except if you’re like me you want the calcium transport, too! No worries, after Vitamin D sulfate does its thing it converts back to Vitamin D3 and gets to work on bone health. Or, as Dr. Seneff put it “vitamin D3 sulfate parks its sulfate somewhere among the extracellular matrix proteins, helping the blood to stay healthy. Having done that, it becomes vitamin D3 and can then transport calcium.”
What About Cod Liver Oil?
No discussion of D3 supplements is complete without talking about one of the most popular supplements in the real food community, cod liver oil. It contains Vitamin D3 instead of D3 sulfate, but both Dr. Seneff and I still recommend it. I can’t speak to all of her reasons, but I can tell you mine:
Dr. Weston A. Price has firmly established the benefits of consuming fat soluble vitamins A, D, E , and K. Unlike D3 drops which isolate one component, cod liver oil is a delicate balance of beneficial co-factors, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and micronutrients. Specifically, Vitamin D works with Vitamin A to utilize calcium and phosphorous in the body. Contrary to what we have heard, carrots contain betacarotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A and not true Vitamin A. Not all of us are able to efficiently convert betacarotene to Vitamin A, which is why it’s preferable to consume preformed Vitamin A as well. (source)
So, isn’t consuming cod liver oil a form Vitamin D supplementation? Yes . . . yes it is.
The fact is our bodies don’t make much Vitamin D during the winter, and it makes sense to seek out additional vitamin D from whole food sources. But we still need sunshine to synthesize sulfate! According to Dr. Seneff, even in winter our skin can do this by synthesizing another compound, cholesterol sulfate – just add sunlight!
Is it a good idea to consume Vitamin D rich foods during the winter? Or even D3 drops if that is not available? Though I deeply respect Dr. Seneff’s research, I think so. As Kristen of Food Renegade said in the comments:
The ideal is to eat enough cholesterol from good animal sources and get enough sunshine so that Vitamin D levels are never a problem. The next best thing is to eat superfoods high in Vitamin D and other complimentary nutrients — like fermented cod liver oil. Perhaps the next best thing is to have quality, whole food based supplements that may mimic the synergistic nature of a superfood (I’m thinking of brands like Standard Process and their various Cataplex suplements). And finally, although it may be useless for some things, like the creation of sulfate, there’s the intake of a straight up isolated Vitamin D3 supplement which still has measurable benefits as study after study has proven. (And of course the BAD option would be to take no supplements and eat a Standard American Diet and expose yourself regularly to environmental toxins while not having a healthy enough body to eliminate them.)
Sometimes, we can’t let the good be the enemy of the ideal. And, of course, that means we should know what the ideal *is*.”
So what’s my takeaway from all this? I still focus on feeding my family nutrient-dense foods which contain lots of fat-soluble vitamins, but I don’t rely on them exclusively to meet our Vitamin D needs. Just like exercise and good quality sleep, I consider responsible sun exposure to be beneficial both for Vitamin D production and the regulation of our circadian rhythm.
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician.
Dr Paul Mason reviews the evidence for dietary change in optimising immune health. The evidence that metabolic syndrome impairs the immune system is reviewed, and the role of dietary carbohydrate and vegetable oils discussed.
Dietary strategies to improve features of metabolic syndrome, including high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, dyslipiaemia and obesity are discussed. Evidence that high cholesterol levels may in fact be beneficial to immune function is also presented.
The lecture finishes by looking at the consequences in poor nutrition in ventilated patients.