In 1995, California was the first state to enact a statewide smoking ban for restaurants, with many other states following suit shortly thereafter as the dangers of secondhand smoke became apparent. But diners today who enjoy non-smoking restaurant areas may unknowingly be harming themselves even more by partaking of certain foods – especially those foods that are cooked in vegetable oils.
Vegetable oils are those oils extracted from grains, seeds, and legumes. They include canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, rice brain oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil.
How did these innocent-sounding “vegetable” oils end up #3 on the notorious list of diet and lifestyle risk factors, with only severe obesity and heavy smoking considered more dangerous?
It’s happened largely over the last century as slowly but surely, the use of less expensive vegetable oils has crept into our modern diet, replacing traditional fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, lard, and ghee. According to top nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, the increased consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils represents the single largest increase in any type of food over the last century. It is estimated that Americans now consume 100,000 times more vegetable oils than they did in the year 1900.
Unless you choose your restaurant carefully, these cheaper, hazardous-to-your-health vegetable oils are likely a part of the food you order, as they are found in nearly every fast-food and restaurant meal served today — unless you know where to find healthy foods to order.
Death By Vegetable Oil
It has been estimated that, for Americans, nearly one-third of our daily caloric intake comes from vegetable oils – so it’s important that we pay attention to what we’re actually ingesting.
The problem with these oils is that they contain highly inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. When heated, the unsaturated fats found in vegetable oils tend to oxidize, setting in motion an increased risk of inflammation that damages the body in many ways. (source: Time Magazine: When Vegetable Oil Isn’t as Healthy as You Think)
Hydrogenated oils (trans-fats), are extremely problematic. Hydrogenated oils have an altered molecular structure making them indigestible and toxic to your cells. Studies are clear that trans fats drive up inflammation, raise your risk for heart disease, and likely increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. The most common culprits are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in margarine and butter substitutes (source: Ann Louise Gittleman: Revamp Your Fats).
GMO (genetically modified) oils are also to be avoided. The primary reason foods are genetically modified is to increase their tolerance to chemical exposure, especially from glyphosate, a widely used herbicide and a known cause of cancer. GMO foods are likely to be contaminated with pesticides and herbicides.
Researchers for the Sydney Diet-Heart Study in which study groups were monitored and evaluated for seven years concluded that the unsaturated fats in vegetable oils such as safflower oil and margarine compared to saturated fats like olive oil and butter increased the all-cause death rate by a whopping 62 percent.
And for cancer in particular, you should know that a separate study published in BMC Cancer (2009) found that the rate of metastasis was four times higher for the study mice which were fed vegetables oils than for the study mice which were fed avocado and olive oil.
It gets worse. In another study published in Science News (2019), researchers determined that oils heated in a deep fryer (in this instance, soybean oil) resulted in an additional four times metastatic growth as unheated soybean oil.
Let’s do the math. If vegetable oils cause 4x the growth of cancer… and heated vegetable oils increase cancer growth by an additional 4x… then when you ingest heated vegetable oils, you’re ingesting unhealthy oils that are 16x more carcinogenic than healthy fats such as olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, and butter.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, over a third of Americans eat at restaurants every day, and a majority of these restaurants use a lot of vegetable oils in the cooking process.
Consuming vegetable oil increases your risk of death more than physical inactivity, heavy drinking, sugar, processed meat, air pollution, red meat, and sodium.
In fact, every 5% increase in daily caloric intake from vegetable oil is the equivalent of smoking seven cigarettes a day. One deep-fried restaurant meal? It potentially has the same detrimental effect on your health as chain smoking a pack of 20+ cigarettes. In. One. Sitting.
Deep-fried foods are some of the worst because the oil is often reheated. As noted in a study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (2019), repeated heating of vegetable oils at high temperatures during cooking is a very common cooking practice that generates dangerous carcinogenic compounds. Even the inhalation of cooking fumes can pose a serious health hazard.
Sure, one or two bad restaurant meals won’t kill you just as one or two cigarettes won’t kill you. But repeated exposure to these carcinogenic compounds eventually add up, and tip the scales… but NOT in your favor.
Be smart. Start by making some simple changes:
- When cooking at home, replace lower quality vegetable oils with non-GMO, non-hydrogenated olive oil, butter, coconut oil, ghee, lard, or tallow. Yes, these higher quality oils may cost a little more. But have you priced the cost of fighting cancer? These simple changes are a smart investment in your health – and you can start today.
- When eating out, choose restaurants that use healthy oils in their food preparation. We’ve done the work for you in determining which restaurants offer the healthiest options for dining out in our FREE restaurant guide, The Templeton List. One of the seven criteria we use in determining which restaurants meet our strict standards is whether or not they use healthy non-hydrogenated oils.