Why Vegetable Oil Will Kill You and How to Save Yourself
'Vegetable' oil makes you exceedingly vulnerable to cancer. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you consume takes you one step closer to a deadly (and irreversible) outcome. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you feed to your children is doing the same to them. You are eating 'vegetable oil' because it is much cheaper to make food with oils that are chemically extracted from plant seeds than it is to raise and slaughter an animal or grow a coconut tree. And you are being told to eat it for your health by nutrition advocates who have been successfully and thoroughly hoodwinked by the food industry.
I am not telling you this because I am a 'greenie', a conspiracy theorist or a herbal jerbal knit-your-own-food purveyor. I am telling you because if you knew this (and could prove it) and didn't tell me and my family, I'd be furious with you. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I have no formal training in human biochemistry or even chemistry. I am a lawyer and the only relevant skill I bring to the table is an ability to gather, understand and synthesise evidence. Science is based on people making hypotheses about how things might work and then collecting evidence that will prove them right (or wrong). Just like law, science should be all about the evidence. However, when it comes to the river of gold that is the processed food industry, evidence runs smack bang into commercial interest and, unfortunately for us, commercial interest generally wins out.
Two hundred years ago, humans ate approximately what they had been eating for the 10 000 (or in some cases 200 000) years prior to that. Where they lived (and how much money they had) affected the exact mix, but in general the diet was a mixture of vegetables, legumes and nuts, grains, meat, fish and an occasional fruit. Fish didn't have fingers back then and chickens hadn't learnt how to grow nuggets. The only fat you were likely to encounter was in a piece of meat (if you were fortunate) or, if you lived near the equator, in some tropical fruits (such as avocados and coconuts). Sugar was even rarer and could usually only be obtained after a protracted series of negotiations with stinging insects. If you think you still eat like that, then have a quick check of your pantry or fridge. If you find lots of boxes, tins and bottles with pictures of food on them, rather than actual food, then you need to read further. If all you find is cuts of whole meat, whole fruit and vegetables, whole grains (or flours), eggs and milk, then congratulations, you don't need this book. Put it down and continue to lead a healthy (and probably long) life.
You're still here? Well, let's get down to the purpose of this book. In my first book, Sweet Poison, I looked at what the science says about the sugar that has been added to all of our food in escalating quantities since the invention of commercial sugar production in the early 1800s. I documented the scientific evidence, now well established, which proves convincingly that the fructose half of sugar is a lethal addition to our diet. And I talked briefly about the measures my family had undertaken to find and remove it from our diet. By doing that I lost 40 kilograms and have kept it off effortlessly for the past nine years. In the follow-up book, The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, I set out the evidence behind my claim that fructose (and therefore sugar) is as addictive as nicotine, and provided a plan for how to break that addiction. The easy way to break it is to severely limit your food choices by, say, moving to a desert island where you can eat only coconuts. But most of us are faced with the daily reality of having to feed ourselves in a society where the food makers are not only filling our food with sugar but are actively trying to hide the fact. The Sweet Poison Quit Plan provides a guide to the modern Australian supermarket and a roadmap that helps the reader find sugar-free food in a forest of sugar-filled rubbish.
In Big Fat Lies, I started to examine the evidence on dietary fat. I had seen this evidence from the corner of my eye as I was reading about fructose. I knew that fat was not a dietary bogeyman once appetite control was restored (by removing fructose), but I had noticed that something similar to the sugar story had been happening in the world of fat.
The story of fat
Between 1820 and 1920, the world's population doubled (from 1 billion to 2 billion). Nothing like this had ever happened before. It took us a quarter of a million years to get to the first billion but the second billion came in just a century. Not surprisingly, our ability to feed everybody was being stretched to breaking point and prices for food – and particularly animal-based products – began an upward spiral. This in turn provided an incentive to come up with food-like products made from cheaper raw materials.
What is a vegetable oil?
We've been told that the secret to curing heart disease is to consume unsaturated vegetable oils rather than saturated animal fats. So now all the fats in our processed foods are labelled 'vegetable oil' and the labels are rarely more specific than that.
The irony is that there is no such thing as oil from a vegetable. The products being pushed as vegetable oils are in fact fruit oils (coconut, palm, olive or avocado), nut oils (macadamia, peanut, pecan, and so on) or seed oils (canola, sunflower, soybean, grapeseed or rice bran).
There's nothing much wrong with fruit oils and some nut oils are okay, too. But seed oils are extraordinarily dangerous. And unfortunately they make up almost all of the 'vegetable oils' in our food.
Humans are endlessly ingenious and when we applied that ingenuity to the problem of expensive animal fat and animal-fat products (like butter), a solution was quickly discovered. It turned out that if enough pressure and heat was applied, fats could be extracted from things that were otherwise going to waste (such as cottonseeds). Treated with the right chemicals, these fats could be made to look and behave just like the animal fats we had consumed for millennia. And just like sugar, these new, cheap fats made their way into our food supply. At first they were cooking fats and margarines, and then shortenings used in baked goods, but eventually they found their way into almost every food on the supermarket shelf, because there are very few foods that don't taste better with a little fat. In commerce, it is rare indeed to both do the cheapest thing and be seen to do the right thing. Dumping industrial waste into rivers is cheaper than disposing of it properly but no one will applaud you for doing it. Burning coal to make power is cheaper than building a solar energy plant but people will accuse you of failing to think about the environment. Using second-hand car parts is cheaper than using new ones but few people will thank you for it if you charge them for new. However, when it comes to edible oils, doing things the cheap way gets you a round of applause from the guardians of our nutritional health. Indeed, the Australian Heart Foundation and the Dietitians Association of Australia, to name two such groups, actively encourage us to consume products that use seed oils instead of animal fats (such as margarine in preference to butter). Their encouragement is based on evidence that could be described as flimsy at best, and there is significant evidence (documented in Big Fat Lies) which says exactly the opposite, but it does not force them to alter their industry-sponsored position.
In Big Fat Lies, I looked in detail at the insidious danger that lies in those man-made fats. Fructose is dangerous because our bodies are not genetically adapted to a diet that contains it in industrial quantities. And the same can be said for the polyunsaturated fats that dominate the oils extracted from seeds. Our extraordinarily complex biochemistry works on an assumption that we will have a very small quantity of these fats in our diet and that every other fat we consume will come from animals or other sources of saturated or monounsaturated fat (see page 16 for an explanation of the different types of fat). And that was a valid assumption before around 1800. But the recent replacement of almost all fats with their cheaper cousins has meant that it is now almost impossible to buy food that is not full of seed oil.
In chapter 1 of this book, I review the history of how we got to this point and look closely at the evidence supporting what I say about seed oils. If you've read Big Fat Lies, much of this will be familiar to you, although I have included more recent reviews of the evidence where available. I've also looked further into the damage that an excess of seed oils (and in particular omega-6 seed oils) can cause to our eyes and our immune systems. If you don't like science and are happy to accept that seed oils are something that should be avoided, feel free to skip to chapter 2.
For the past few years I've tried to avoid seed oils. Chapter 2 describes the results of my endeavours. It is easy to say that our food supply looks nothing like it did 200 years ago. But it's simply not possible for 7 billion of us (and counting) to live and eat the way 1 billion of us did then. If you want to eat whole food and nothing else then you're already avoiding both added fructose and added seed oils. But if, like me, you have neither the time nor the inclination to assemble everything you eat from scratch, then you need the research set out in this part. I go through each of the major categories of prepared food looking for the seed oils hidden within, and suggest which choices are best. In doing so, I am also keeping an eye on the fructose content. For most food categories, I provide you with a brand recommendation that contains the least possible fructose and the least possible seed oil. I also summarise my recommendations in the form of a sample daily menu (see chapter 3) and a consolidated list of the kinds of things you can eat. Sometimes, however, there is simply no viable choice, and that's when you'll need chapter 4 of the book.
In chapter 4, I set out recipes developed by my wife, Lizzie. We use most of these recipes – many of them on a weekly or even daily basis – to replace foods that cannot be purchased (easily) without seed oil or sugar. You won't find too many desserts in this section. (If that's what you want, you need the recipes in my book The Sweet Poison Quit Plan.) These recipes are for the savoury essentials – like fried food, mayo, pestos and spreads – that you will probably want if you plan to live without seed oil.
This is not a weight-loss book but it is a diet book. If you eat the way I suggest, you will lose weight (if you need to) because, besides cutting out seed oils, you will also avoid added sugar. Your appetite control will function the way it should and you will stop eating when you have sufficient energy (yes, it's that simple). You won't find me encouraging you to purchase purple pears grown on the south side of the hill and picked at midnight on a Tuesday. Or suggesting you supplement your food with potions and powders to enhance their nutritional value. Or telling you to count calories or exercise more. I will simply be telling you what not to buy if you want to live longer than you otherwise might (and look good while you're doing it).
Sugar has given us diabetes, dementia and obesity. And polyunsaturated fats have given us cancer. In just three generations, they've combined to give us heart disease and to create seemingly untreatable epidemics. Both were added to our diets in bulk long before ingredients were tested for their health impacts or safety. Take a look at the table on page 7. Just 200 years ago, barely any of these diseases existed at any significant level. Now almost every major chronic disease appears in the list. These diseases consume almost all of the Western world's healthcare budget, and the costs continue to grow more quickly than any nation can support. These diseases have raced from obscurity to epidemic proportions during a period when our health authorities have told us to replace animal fats with seed oil (and have ignored sugar). To this day they warn us against consuming animal fats, but it's difficult not to comply because animal fat is jolly hard to get. It's all gone. Barely a manufactured food now exists which has not had any skerrick of animal fat replaced with seed oils. My purpose in this book is to ensure that you are not another victim of the industrialisation of your food supply. I want to provide you with a seed-oil and sugar avoidance sat-nav for your local supermarket. If you do what I suggest, you will be doing all the wrong things, according to our health authorities. You'll be eating butter, drinking full-fat milk, chomping through bacon and eggs for breakfast and enjoying a meat pie for lunch. But if you do this, the science says you will significantly increase your chances of living a long and hopefully happy life. Bon appetit!
Number Of Pages: 280
Published: 27th February 2013
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.1 x 15.5 x 1.8
Weight (kg): 23.1
Edition Number: 1
About the Author
David Gillespie is a recovering corporate lawyer, co-founder of a successful software company and consultant to the IT industry. He is also the father of six young children (including one set of twins). With such a lot of extra time on his hands, and 40 extra kilos on his waistline, he set out to investigate why he, like so many in his generation, was fat. He deciphered the latest medical findings on diet and weight gain and what he found was chilling. Being fat was the least of his problems. He needed to stop poisoning himself.
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Everything you believe about fat is wrong.
Polyunsaturated oil – everyone knows it's good for you, right? Wrong! And we all know artery-clogging, cholesterol-forming saturated fat is bad for you, don't we? Wrong again! In his previous book Big Fat Lies, David Gillespie showed that these 'truths' are in fact myths, based on poor research and bad evidence.
'Vegetable oil', which isn't made from vegetables at all, but manufactured from seeds, has systematically replaced saturated fats in our diets over the past one hundred years, but our rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are higher than ever.
In Toxic Oil, David reviews the latest evidence on why vegetable oil will kill you. He shows us how to avoid it and leads us through the supermarket, explaining how to read food labels and which products to buy. In the recipe section, you'll discover how to make versions of delicious meals and snacks that are difficult to buy without seed oil. No need to give up hot chips!
With this practical guide in hand, you'll be able to make healthy food choices based on evidence rather than what the processed food industry wants you to believe. So have a good breakfast – preferably bacon and eggs – strap yourself in, and be prepared to have everything you thought you knew about fat turned upside down.
About the Author
David Gillespie is the author of Big Fat Lies: How the Diet Industry is Making You Sick, Fat and Poor; and Sweet Poison.