The Road To Nowhere

Vegetable Oils And Other Fats

Dr. Edward Howell summarized the problem of free fats and oils perfectly in one sentence: “Any isolated, purified, skeletonized food material must be expected to have adverse, far-reaching effects on the health of living organisms.”

While the processing of foods into oils places the rendered product into the same category as devitalized sugar and flour, what is unique about oil, however, unlike sugar or flour, is that there is often an extra message of health attached to it. For over fifty years now people have been told by the media, doctors and various government agencies that replacing animal fat with a vegetable oil would help prevent heart disease.

This health-based message stemmed originally from research on cholesterol done in the mid-fifties by a Russian researcher named David Kritchevsky, which became known as the lipid hypothesis. With very little other research, the American Heart Association, almost immediately, began to warn of the dangers of high cholesterol, high fat diets and recommending the use of vegetable oils in the place of butter and other animal fats.

What is interesting is that at the same time the push to change to vegetable oils was growing stronger, research was already showing that the new oils contained a virtually new, highly undesirable type of fat which would eventually turn out to be more dangerous to the human body than the saturated fats it was replacing. This fat was called trans fat, a type of fat which occurs naturally in very small amounts in animal fats but is contained in much larger quantities in the highly processed oils coming to market. Additionally, the chemical makeup of the naturally occurring trans fat is different from the chemical makeup of the trans fat in the new oils.


In The Oiling of America, a paper by Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. and Sally Fallon, they noted, “… most of the trans isomers in modern hydrogenated fats are new to the human physiology and by the early 1970’s a number of researchers had expressed concern about their presence in the American diet, noting that their increasing use had paralleled the increase in both heart disease and cancer.” But even though it was known almost immediately, from very limited research, that saturated fats were supposedly harmful to human health, it would take almost half a century for the research into the dangers of trans fats to affect government dietary guidelines (due in part to heavy lobbying from the edible oil industry and insiders from the edible oil industry who took key positions in the Food and Drug Administration and blocked attempts to warn of the dangers trans fats posed).

It was not until 1999 that the government mandated that the amount of trans fats in food products be labeled. And this was done despite heavy lobbying from groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), which not only initially fought the labeling requirement altogether, but later lobbied strongly against the FDA-proposed footnote statement to the Nutrition Fact box, which advised consumers to “reduce their trans fat consumption as much as possible.”

Although most people would understand vegetable oils are processed and refined oils, few people grasp just how highly processed these oils are. Tim O’Shea, a chiropractor and clinical nutritionist in San Jose, California, wrote in an article in Alternative Medicine magazine, the processes soy oil goes through on its way to becoming margarine:

The first step in soy processing is high-temperature cooking to try and get rid of the phytic acid. High temperatures denature the natural enzymes of the soybean. Without enzymes, any plant becomes a devitalized food, very difficult to digest in the human tract. Remember that enzymes, vitamins and minerals are three legs of the tripod of metabolic activity. Take away any one and the other two cannot function properly.

After cooking, soy oil is removed by one of two paths: pressing or solvent extraction. Soybean oil is rarely cold-pressed, as many claim, but is usually subjected to heat, which produces destructive free radicals. An easier method of oil extraction is by the use of solvents. Several are used in soybean oil processing. Hexane, a petroleum distillate, is the standard chemical used. Traces of this toxic solvent may be left behind in the finished products, both in the oil and in the protein isolate.

The next step in the refining process is degumming, the removal of residual fiber, or gum, from the oil. The problem is that valuable trace minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium and iron, as well as chlorophyll, are removed as well.

Next, the refined oil is mixed with sodium hydroxide (which is what drain cleaners are made of) at a temperature of 167°F. The purpose of this step is to remove any remaining free fatty acids.

To remove extra pigments and make the oil completely clear, bleaching is accomplished by more high heat, followed by filtering. Other free radicals called peroxides are thus introduced.

Deodorizing is then thought to be necessary to destroy any natural aromatics. This process uses extreme heat, up to 518°F, which destroys whatever vitality and antioxidants the oils might have left. The oil is thus rendered absolutely tasteless, colorless and odorless. It is now devoid of any useful vitamin, mineral, enzyme or nutrient content whatsoever.

And even though it has undergone extreme high temperatures at several steps, as long as no external heat was added during the actual pressing step, the oil can still be sold as “cold-pressed.”

As if no further biological indignity could have been levied against the lifeless processed oil, researchers in the 1930s at Dupont figured out a way to harden the oil into a perfectly engineered non-food: margarine. They found out that if they subjected the refined oil to yet another round of high temperatures up to 410°F — and also forced hydrogen gas in the presence of an aluminum catalyst through the oil, they could produce a substance with the desired spreadability and shelf-life. That’s what hydrogenated margarine means. And at least 80% of the margarine made in the U.S. comes from refined soybean oil.

In understanding the process that turns soy into oil and margarine, it is easier to understand why processed oils have far-reaching effects on the health of living organisms. Look at the ingredients of most junk foods. Many contain either soy or canola oil. The heavy processing of these two oils brings the trans fat level of soy oil up to a 40% trans fats level and up to a 50% level for canola oil.

If heavily processed oils were the only bad ingredient in the Standard American Diet, it would be bad enough — many in the alternative health field claim vegetable oils to be the worst “food” in American’s diets — but keep in mind how many food items contain vegetable oils, devitalized corn or wheat flour, and processed sugar, salt, and a long list of chemical preservatives … and, of the food items left over that don’t contain vegetable oils, many of these end up being fried in a vegetable oil.

Interestingly enough, both Christians and non-Christians alike will often, at least initially, blame God, Satan, or other outside factors if they become sick, never giving the man-made, non-foods they have been ingesting any credit whatsoever.

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