Vegetable Oils- To Eat Or Not?

July 22, 2020

Vegetable oils are purified oils made by highly intensive mechanical and chemical processes to extract oil from seeds and vegetable hulls. The extracted oil is then further put through different refining techniques. The final product is usually a bland oil with mild flavour supposedly free from impurities (as a result of the refining techniques) but also devoid of any useful nutrients.

In addition, high-temperature processing used in the refining process of vegetable oils may cause the weak carbon bonds of unsaturated fatty acids to break apart, thereby creating free radicals (1). Free radicals are highly reactive substances which lead to oxidative stress in the body and create additional health problems

Moreover, antioxidants (the good stuff that’s there in the original fatty food), such as fat soluble vitamin E, are also neutralized or destroyed by high temperatures and pressures. Harmful substances like Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), both suspected of causing cancer and brain damage, are often added to these oils to replace vitamin E and other natural preservatives which are destroyed by heat (1).

The point being, cooking oils are devoid of any nutrients because of all the techniques involved in its processing. 

Most of us know that internal inflammation leads to a host of health problems. The top three chronic diseases with high fatality ratios (cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes) share inflammation as a common link.

Numerous studies have proven that high levels of inflammation increase your chances of suffering from chronic disease. 

What triggers inflammation?

We’ll talk about this in a later article but apart from toxins and pathogens, the food you eat can directly trigger inflammation in your body. And just how inflammatory are oils? Well, let’s find out. 

Research has proven that refined oils, primarily vegetable oils (Canola oil, Groundnut, Soybean, Safflower, Olive, Rapeseed, Cottonseed, Palm, Corn oil) give rise to what are known as proinflammatory factors once consumed (2). As the name suggests, proinflammatory drugs are the ones capable of producing inflammation. Also, fatty meals can stimulate the production of a specific toxin in your gut, namely, Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS, too, is most likely to cause inflammatory changes (3).

There is also a direct link between dietary oil and fat intake and insulin resistance- excess dietary fat can lead to insulin resistance which is the root cause of diabetes. 

How does this happen? 

While our cells use glucose as its primary source of fuel for energy production, we also have small quantities of fat stored in our cells. This fat is called intramyocellular fat. The quantity of intramyocellular fat within your cells determines if your cells will open up to insulin or not. Too much fat in the cell, and insulin ( along with glucose) is not invited in-which leads to excess blood sugar in your bloodstream which gets diagnosed as diabetes

If you have elevated blood sugar levels for too long, it can kill beta cells. These are cells in your Pancreas which produce Insulin, the only hormone that lowers sugar from your blood and keeps you away from falling prey to Diabetes.

In addition, beta cells are highly susceptible to dietary fat. Known as lipotoxicity, the accumulation of excess fat in your beta cells leads to severe beta cell death. As a result of this massive cell die off, insulin production falls to below normal physiological levels. This state is called type 1 diabetes (4).

In short, your dependence on oils and fats for cooking can lead to diabetes and a host of other health problems. 

There is also the problem of toxins in oils. Numerous studies have confirmed Aflatoxin contamination in edible vegetable oils. This family of toxins (they are poisonous carcinogens and mutagens) produced by different fungi are known to contaminate a wide array of agricultural commodities including raw oil seeds, nuts or fruits, from which vegetable oils are extracted.

Such contamination may occur during pre and post-harvest stages especially due to poor storage conditions, high humidity and temperatures. These factors are known to favor the growth of these toxins, making them efficient enough to be transferred to the final edible products (5).

Moreover, a group of additives which go by the name- Phthalates have been added to cold pressed vegetable oils. This group of additives are known as potential ‘endocrine disruptors’ which can cause adverse effects on your reproductive system (6).

Our recommendation? Stay off oils in any form if you are prone to insulin resistance and diabetes. You can include natural sources of fat in your diet such as avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds (if you are plant based) and farm raised/ pasture grown animal products (but only if you know for sure that you have no insulin resistance)

Reach out to iThrive to learn more about insulin resistance. Click below for a FREE consultation.


Ria Jain
Functional Nutritionist

Ria has a Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics and is in a permanent research mode and keeps the rest of us at iThrive (Previously ThriveFNC) updated with her latest findings in the field of Nutrition. Her articles on iThrive's blog are an expression of her research findings. We really don’t know what we’d do without her support and her focus.

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