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Vegetable oils are healthy: 10 facts

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
MU study: Vegetable oils are healthy

A new study from University of Missouri finds vegetable oil is healthy after all and does not promote inflammation in the body like some research has started to claim.

No health risks found from vegetable oils

The finding that comes from an analysis of randomized clinic trials shows corn, canola and soy oils will not cause heart disease, cancer or other inflammatory related disease. That is of course, unless we consume vegetable oils to excess.

Animal studies have suggested vegetables oils promote inflammation. But the new study found that humans do not respond to linoleic acid (LA) in vegetable oils and chronic diseases the same as animals.

A 2013 BMJ published study also suggested linoleic acid could increase the chances of dying from heart disease. The study authors wrote: ‘…substituting omega 6 linoleic acid for saturated fat did not provide the intended benefits, but increased all cause morality, cardiovascular death, and death from coronary heart disease.”

Inflammation is the root of all disease. Kevin Fritsche, an animal science researcher says the MU study found "no evidence" that vegetables oils promote inflammation, which is contrary to warnings that have been shared for "the better part of a decade".

Fritsche said there is even some evidence that vegetable oils widely used for cooking can indeed be healthy by lowering inflammation

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"We’re not saying that you should just go out and consume vegetable oil freely. However, our evidence does suggest that you can achieve a heart-healthy diet by using soybean, canola, corn and sunflower oils instead of animal-based fats when cooking," Fritsche said in a press release.

Ten facts about omega-6 fatty acid in vegetable oils

  • Linoleic acid or LA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is unsaturated and especially important for brain function. One of the problems with a typical American diet is that we might be consuming more omega-6 fatty acid than omega-3s; upsetting balance.
  • The body cannot manufacture LA, but instead uses external sources of the fatty acid that comes from oils, food and supplements.
  • LA in turn breaks down in the body to convert to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that has been suggested to reduce inflammation, but recently under scrutiny.
  • In order for the body to break GLA down completely, other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C, B3 and B6 are needed.
  • The recommended intake is 2 to 4 tablespoons a day from the Institute of Medicine and the American Heart Association.
  • Nuts and seeds are also good sources of LA
  • Breast milk is a rich source of GLA that comes from the breakdown on linoleic acid, which is why breast feeding is so good for early life brain development.
  • Symptoms of omega-6 deficiency include hair loss, dry hair, and poor wound healing
  • Grass fed animals and eggs have higher concentrations of the oils that are also naturally present in meat and dairy products
  • One tablespoon of vegetable oil contains about 120 calories, supporting the notion that too much of anything can lead to weight gain and new health problems

If you have been shunning vegetable oils because of claims they are not healthy, the new study lends support to adding them back into your diet.

The study

For their investigation, the MU researchers looked at 15 clinical trials that included nearly 500 adults and their consumption of various fats, including vegetable oils.

The result showed no evidence that we should avoid consuming vegetable oils or that they promote inflammation.

“Consumers are regularly bombarded with warnings about what foods they should avoid,” Fritsche said. “While limiting the overall fat intake is also part of the current nutrition recommendations, we hope people will feel comfortable cooking with vegetable oils.”

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons