Some vegetable oils just claim to be heart healthy: Is yours?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vegetable Oil

Sorting out which vegetables oils are healthy can be confusing to consumers.


Sometimes we get duped into believing vegetable oils are healthy. One of the reasons is the way food manufacturers try to market their products. Do you know if your vegetable oil can lead you down the path to heart disease?

Omega-6 oils

Canadian researchers are asking that food labels saying Omega-6 fatty acids are healthy be removed.

And there's good reason for that. Replacing saturated fat with the likes of safflower oil and margarine has been shown to boost the chances of heart attack.

Dr. Richard Bazinet, lead author of the new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said the information is important for consumers who have been buying more polyunsaturated vegetable oils whose labels claim "may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease".

And generally that's true, but with some exceptions Bazinet says.

Not all polyunsaturated fats are healthy

When it comes to cooking oils it's all about the types of polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils that matter. It's also about balance.

"Careful evaluation of recent evidence, however, suggests that allowing a health claim for vegetable oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but relatively poor in omega-3 α-linolenic acid may not be warranted," Bazinet and Michael Chu, Lawson Health Research Institute and Division of Cardiac Surgery at Western University in London, Ontario write.


Another example is corn oil that contains omega-6 linoleic acid but almost no omega-3 α-linolenic acid.

What about studies?

A 2012 study showed safflower oil can lower cholesterol levels. Study participants replaced saturated fats with omega-6 from safflower oil. They lost weight and their cholesterol numbers went down.

Sounds good right?

It turns out the group give safflower oil had a 33 percent higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and higher incidence of death rates from heart complications.

Mayonnaise, chips, creamy salad dressing and dip, margarine and nuts all contain omega-6 fatty acids.

The researchers say if you vegetable oil is mostly rich in omega-6 fatty acids you might want to avoid it. Canola oil and soybean oil are good choices because they contain a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The study authors want to see a change in food labeling for vegetable oils. Some oils are bad for heart health, but claim otherwise.

"Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Is a broad cholesterol-lowering health claim appropriate?"
Richard P. Bazinet and Michael W.A. Chu
November 11, 2013

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By Seth Anderson