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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cari S. Miller

It's Time For An Oil Change!

We have heard through the years vegetable/seed oils are good and butter is bad. Perhaps you have heard traditional fats like butter, full fat dairy products, lard, or coconut oil cause high cholesterol, clogged arteries, and leads to heart disease and, alternatively, we should use vegetable oil as a more “heart-healthy” option to the more traditional fat sources? This is a myth, and research has shown time and time again the harm they do within the body.

How to Eat Vegetable Oil

how to eat vegetable and seed oils

Contrary to what we have been told, these vegetable/seed oils (soybean, canola, corn, safflower, sunflower) produced by the food industry are highly refined, processed, and are NOT “heart healthy;” in fact, they are highly inflammatory to our bodies and brains and they are making us sick. These oils are only a very recent addition to the human diet and there is a growing body of research which indicates they are terrible for cardiovascular health.

Research has now shown vegetable oil consumption may uniquely drive cardiovascular disease, rather than prevent it, by:

· Promoting chronic inflammation

· Increasing adiposity (makes you fat)

· Increasing trans-fat intake

· Displacing nutrient-dense, cardio protective foods (Omega-3s) in the diet

Soybean oil use, for example, has been associated with elevations in several markers of inflammation, including fasting blood glucose, serum insulin, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein. It also contributes to significant weight gain. Each of these inflammatory biomarkers is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The main concept of how these vegetable/seed oils trigger inflammation has to do with omega-6 fatty acid versus omega-3 fatty acid intake and the balance between these two. Vegetable oils have high omega-6 content and intake of high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids is directly linked to systemic inflammation. Conversely, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory markers. Our standard American diet is very high in omega-6’s and low in omega-3s, and, therefore, we see a lot of systemic inflammation which causes endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance- all critical elements in the development of cardiovascular disease.

Vegetable oils also contain pro-inflammatory compounds produced as byproducts during oil processing and cooking. Omega-6 oxylipins, compounds produced when omega-6 fatty acids are oxidized by heat or light, promote inflammation in the body upon consumption. Consumption of these compounds triggers a chain reaction of oxidative damage in the body eventually leading to low-density lipoprotein oxidation. Oxidized low-density lipoprotein plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease.

Also, man-made trans-fats, a byproduct of hydrogenation refining process used in products, such as margarine, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease – and does NOT help to prevent it. In fact, these unnatural vegetable oil fat sources – even if un-hydrogenated – increase your risk of heart disease development. For every 2% increase in caloric intake from trans-fat sources, our risk of heart disease is nearly DOUBLED.

What can you do? Use Healthy Oils/Fats Instead

Natural fat sources are the best way to protect your cardiovascular health:

· Extra Virgin Olive Oil

extra virgin olive oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a heart-healthy oil that has been a part of the human diet for millennia. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower triglycerides, improve glycemic control, and enhance the body’s antioxidant systems, which help prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, a critical step in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains phytonutrients as well, which promote healthy endothelial function, a critical determinant of cardiovascular health.

· Wild-Caught Salmon and other Seafood

wild caught salmon

Particularly for us in Alaska, this is a natural resource we should be taking advantage of! The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other seafood offer powerful support for cardiovascular health.

· Avocados and Avocado Oil

avocados and avocado oil

Avocados and avocado oil are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, like Extra Virgin Olive Oil and brings the same cardiovascular benefits.

· Full-Fat Dairy Products

full fat dairy products

The myth of low fat diets has been debunked time and time again. Full-fat dairy intake, such as butter, ghee, cheese, or fermented full-fat sources, such as yogurt, offers cardiovascular benefits by reducing cardiovascular inflammation markers, a fact NOT seen with low-fat products.

· Coconut Oil

coconut oil

Coconut oil is an excellent option for cardiovascular health as it increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.


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