Cooking oils a brief history
let's start at the very beginning
The first seed oil to enter our diets was born in the late 1800s. Crisco was the first widely marketed seed oil made for human consumption – it contains Soybean Oil, Fully Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Palm Oil, Mono Diglycerides, TBHQ, and Citric Acid. The first nationwide consumer protection law in the U.S. was the “Pure Food and Drug Act”, passed in 1906. As its name suggests, the main focus was misbranded and contaminated foods to hold the manufacturers accountable for informing consumers what was in their products, not the ingredients themselves but if they were safe for consumption. The safety of seed oil was not the focus as long as these products were labeled accurately as to their content, health claims aside.
In other words, seed oils entered into usage during a time of minimal food regulation.
The modern FDA wasn't established until the passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, and the first version of today’s generally recognized as safe or GRAS list, came into being in 1958.
For reference, here’s when the most common seed oils entered into mass industrial production for human consumption:
Corn oil: 1898-1899
Cottonseed oil: late 19th century
Peanut oil: 1930s
Safflower oil: 1940s
Refined soybean oil: mid-20th century
Refined sunflower oil: 1946
The terms “vegetable oil” and “seed oil” are often used interchangeably but have different meanings. To explore what the best evidence says about seed oils' safety and possible toxicity, we'll need to start by defining each term.
Vegetable oils are any oils or fats derived from crops, including fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds. This is a broad category that includes all crop-based oils.
Seed Oils vs. Vegetable Oils: What Are They?
Seed oils, also called industrial seed oils, are a particular category of vegetable oils that are derived from seeds. “Vegetable oil” isn’t a very accurate description or a helpful way to think about them — these oils aren’t exactly pressed from kale or broccoli.
Not only is seed consumption on such a massive scale new to the human diet, but all of these oils are also high in an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid.
Before large-scale industrial manufacturing and processing, it simply wasn’t a viable option to produce many seed oils or add them to foods. Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid that’s required in small amounts (1-2% of total calories.)
The average person today eats 6-10% or more of their calories from linoleic acid due to the increasing consumption of vegetable oils made from seed crops.
Excessive linoleic acid intake is associated with inflammation, obesity, heart disease, and more.
Fortunately, it’s possible to reduce your stored tissue linoleic acid levels. The single most important change is to avoid seed oils and processed and prepared foods with high linoleic acid levels.
Other practices like exercise and intermittent fasting likely speed up linoleic acid depletion, but only if you eat a low linoleic acid diet.
When discussing seed oils for the purposes of toxicity, we’re not including olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Compared to most seed oils, these fruit oils have only low to moderate amounts of linoleic acid. For example, whereas sunflower seed oil and grapeseed oil contain up to 75% linoleic acid, olive oil and avocado average around 12% linoleic acid, with levels ranging up to about 27%
Canola oil, they say it's healthy?
One surprising exception is canola oil, first produced in Canada in 1974. The term canola oil, short for "Canada oil, low acid," turned out to be more marketable than its original technical name: low erucic acid rapeseed oil.
Canola oil was widely adopted immediately by the food industry, then granted GRAS status in decisions in 1977 and 1985 because regulators deemed that it had already been in wide enough use to merit a safety pass.
The GRAS decisions for canola oil have focused on its chemical composition, fatty acid profile, heavy metal risks, and potential allergens.
While these factors are important for understanding the acute toxicity risks, the picture that emerges is that canola and other seed oils never underwent rigorous safety testing for premarket approval.
Canola oil has been touted as a healthy oil option due to its low saturated fat content and high monounsaturated fat content. Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in canola oil, have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. Canola oil is most commonly used for deep-fat frying and cooking sprays with its high smoke point at (204C) and (400F)
Additionally, canola oil is also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to have potential health benefits such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health.
Canola oil is considered to be safe for use with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because it is made from a variety of rapeseed that has been specifically bred to have low levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates, which are compounds that can be toxic in large amounts. GMO canola varieties have been developed through genetic engineering to have better resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance to herbicides, and higher yields. This allows farmers to produce canola oil more efficiently and at a lower cost.
Genetically modified canola oil is considered to be safe for consumption by regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But is this really the case? Consider deep fryers filled with canola oil and flat-topped grills (sprayed with seed oils) that are found in almost every Western restaurant.
In these restaurants, there must be industrial-grade air vents that accumulate thick layers of carcinogenic black grease. This builds up over the course of a couple of short months and must be painstakingly scraped clean. The black grease in question is seed oils that have been heated up to, and past their smoke point. “When an oil is heated past its smoke point, it generates toxic fumes and free radicals which are extremely harmful to your body. When the smoke point is reached, you'll begin to see the gaseous vapors from heating, a marker that the oil has started to decompose.”
It is also worth noting that canola oil has a high amount of polyunsaturated fats, when exposed to high heat it can produce harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which may contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Some studies have shown that consuming high amounts of polyunsaturated fats can increase the risk of many health issues.
Hemp and its many uses
Hemp oil, also known as hempseed oil, is made from the hemp plant’s seeds. It is a versatile oil that can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
Cooking: Hemp oil has a mild, nutty flavor and a slightly lower smoke point than say olive oil (Compared to other vegetable oils used for cooking, hemp seed oil has a low smoke point (165C) or (330F) and is not suitable for frying.
Personal Care: Hemp oil is often used in the production of soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products due to its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
Supplements: Hemp oil is a rich source of essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, and is commonly used as a dietary supplement to support overall health.
Topical Applications: Hemp oil has anti-inflammatory properties which make it suitable for treating skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is also used in lotions, creams, and other topical products for its moisturizing and nourishing properties.
Industrial Uses: Hemp oil can also be used as a biofuel, in industrial lubricants, and in the production of plastics and other materials.
Medicinal Uses: hemp oil has been used in alternative medicine to treat conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain, and even cancer.
It's worth noting that hemp oil should not be confused with CBD oil, which is made from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant, and contains high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound that has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits.
It's not all doom and gloom
Seed oils are in everything and are next to impossible to get away from – especially if you enjoy prepackaged and restaurant food. These oil industries built a market for their products before regulatory agencies had the authority or data to stop the distribution and or honestly inform the world’s consumers of the potential health risks of this product infiltrating nearly every quick snack or to-go meal. Along with the sugar industry - busy, overworked, two-income Americans homes with no time to cook and to monitor what we really are putting into our bodies - left with no choice but to depend on prepackaged nutrition which slowly over decades of consumption is turning out more and more to be almost a poison.
Not all cooking oils are this bad. Avocado oil is the best to cook with. But it turns out that most avocado oils on the market are cut and diluted with the cheap oils we’re trying to get away from. Again it falls to the consumer to do the research if not the testing due to the fact the producers or the FDA will not manipulate the facts at the cost of the consumer.
Real olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Olive oil contains large amounts of Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Olive oil is protective against heart disease. Olive oil is not associated with weight gain and obesity. Some sources put the smoke point of extra olive oil somewhere around 350–410°F (190–207°C) and olive oil's smoke point is 390 to 468 degrees. This makes it a safe choice for most cooking methods, including most pan frying.
Hemp oil is a fantastic base for creams and soups. Its fibers are eco-friendly and enormously versatile from fabrics, plastics, and paper. Healthy, earth-friendly solutions exist in the world today. But with the temptations of cheap, toxic alternatives and established multibillion-dollar industry interests, are not in favor of healthy, educated consumers finding alternatives. There is a long uphill fight to bring quality and healthy consumables to our lives. For more information and research on seed oils and their effects visit https://www.zeroacre.com/blog/are-seed-oils-toxic