Do you need an oil change?
Are you using vegetable oils? If so please continue reading about how they can add to inflammation in the body. Generally, vegetable oils have a high omega 6 content, which is a necessary polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) required by our bodies. (1)
Oil Omega-6 Content Omega-3 Content
Safflower 75% 0%
Sunflower 65% 0%
Corn 54% 0%
Cottonseed 50% 0%
Sesame 42% 0%
Peanut 32% 0%
Soybean 51% 7%
Canola 20% 9%
Walnut 52% 10%
Flaxseed 14% 57%
Fish 0% 100% (2)
However, in the world we live in now, most of us already have more than enough omega- 6 from other processed foods we consume, making a complete imbalance with omega-3, resulting in inflammation. (3)
Why is this important?
It is vitally important as both of these PUFA’s are intrinsic to maintaining optimal health. The ratio should be no more than 2.3: 1 (omega-6 to omega-3), ideally, 1:1 but most of us have a ratio of 15:1 with many even higher. (4)
Omega-6 plays a pro-inflammatory role in the body, whereas omega 3 is anti-inflammatory or neutral, although both are necessary in the right proportions to help maintain a positive state of health. (5)
A substantial number of the chronic diseases today develop, as the norm for us is to be in a highly inflammatory state i.e. too high a ratio between omega 6 and omega 3.(6) Plus too much highly processed food with ridiculous amounts of sugar.
Why has this occurred?
Many of our modern diseases, obesity, t2diabetes, Alzheimer's, and metabolic syndrome have been increasing dramatically in recent years. (7)
Why blame vegetable oils or PUFA’s ?.
Whilst we may have utilised vegetable oils for many years, we were not also consuming vast quantities of processed foods such as sauces, snacks and crackers, nor eating fast food, or enjoying meals in restaurants as we have become more affluent.
The refining process of PUFA’s creates an unstable product which is sensitive to oxygen. As these oils have been stripped of their antioxidants they become unstable, unlike chia, hemp, flax or sunflower seeds. (8)
The majority of restaurants utilise vegetable oils for cooking at extreme temperatures, which in itself creates oxidation. Oxidation promotes free radicals, so even if vegetable oil is not used in cooking at extremely high temperatures the harmful toxins created are still able to cause damage to our mitochondria. Many restaurants, reuse their cooking oil* producing a rancid product as the more oxidative reaction occurs. (9) * (although this practice is banned in many countries)
Omega-6 linoleic acid metabolises to arachidonic acid which can be a necessary pro-inflammatory, whilst the fatty acids known as omega-3 are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both EPA and DHA are available from fish, whilst ALA is available from plants and may be synthesised to EPA and DHA but at a very low absorbability rate.
Omega-6 and omega-3 use the same metabolic pathway, thereby competing for use of some of the same enzymes, unfortunately, omega-6 has priority. Therefore the higher the omega-6 ratio the less chance omega-3 has of fighting inflammation. We actually need to consume a higher ratio of omega 3 to be able to fight for the enzymes that will enable us to convert ALA to EPA and DHA which protect our heart and brain, (10)
EPA and DHA protect against :
• cardiovascular disease,
• type 2 diabetes,
• metabolic syndrome,
• irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease,
• macular degeneration,
• rheumatoid arthritis,
• psychiatric disorders,
• autoimmune diseases. (11)
A diet high in omega-6 may increase inflammation, raise cholesterol, create hormonal imbalances and potentially thyroid disorders. A combination of increased inflammation and disrupted hormones often leads to weight gain and obesity.
A study in 2015 on mice showed how soybean oil induced obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance and fatty liver. However, reducing the amount of the linoleic acid whilst increasing the proportion of oleic acid (omega-9) reduced the amount of damage. Olive oil has a high oleic acid content and is heavily used in a Mediterranean diet. (12)
How do we reduce our Omega-6 intake?
Firstly and probably the easiest way to reduce your omega-6 intake is to stop using any of the following oils.
Limit use of seed, and nut oils. Eat whole foods such as nuts and grains in their original state. If you consume meat and fish there will be more than enough omega-6 in the diet. If we also consume 3 - 4 portions of oily fish a week, sardines, herrings, mackerel, anchovies, and salmon (SMASH), we will help to create the correct balance.
Please also bear in mind if you use nut flours they will contain omega-6 and that cooking will alter its chemical make-up.
If you are vegan or vegetarian half a dozen walnut halves or a tablespoon of chia or linseeds will provide adequate ALA. Lack of LA should not be a problem as it is found in sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. (14)
What shall I use instead?
Cook with coconut oil and avocado oil which are stable even at high temperatures, use extra virgin olive oil for lower temperature cooking or adding to sauces, try macadamia and avocado oils on your salads. (15)
As previously stated both omega-6 and omega-3 are essential PUFA’s as our body cannot make them, so we have to consume them from foods. Just make sure they are whole real foods. (16).
Vegetable oils are they Inflammatory?