This blog post is a long time in coming – which is fitting, because it took me a long time to realize the truly damaging impact of vegetable oils, especially for migraineurs. These oils are so ubiquitous in our food supply, and so bad for us, that I have made avoiding them my #1 step in the SimplyWell Protocol. Yes, they’re THAT bad for you.
They’re so bad that I’ve dedicated myself to getting vegetables oils – and especially canola oil – out of my son’s cafeteria. Getting them out of your life will benefit everyone in your family – but more than anything, doing so will especially benefit your own precious brain, which needs all the support it can get.
So-called vegetable oils (and no, they’re not oils made out of broccoli – but rather, seeds) are HIGHLY inflammatory and disrupt how your body signals and transports nutrients – setting you up for hormonal and enzymatic problems.
And no, canola oil, which is marketed as “heart healthy” is not better because of its omega-3’s. Omega 3 oils are even more prone to oxidative damage than Omega 6’s. That’s why in Canada, the total trans fat content of canola oil per bottle must be labeled, whereas here in the US, deceptive labelling is allowed, saying canola has “0g trans fat per serving.”
Our brain is already made up of fully ⅓ PUFAs – so eating oxidized PUFAs contributes to oxidation of the PUFAs in our brain by way of the inflammatory cascade they cause. This damaging cascade disrupts hormone receptors, nutrient channels, and other proteins in the cell membrane. Therefore, to protect our precious brain, we must avoid these damaging vegetable oils.
Like most people these days, I no longer vilify fats. I know that fats are good – even (and especially) saturated fats. I, like most of us, have been aware for a long time that trans fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils are no bueno. So I didn’t think I had anything to learn about oils and fats, because I didn’t eat margarine or any foods with trans fats in them – or so I thought.
But little did I know that most vegetable oil processing using the expeller-pressed method will result in oxidizing the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in vegetable oils into trans fats.
PUFAs and Inflammation
One of my favorite books on nutrition is “Deep Nutrition” by Dr. Cate Shanahan. She, more than anyone, woke me up to the dangers of these vegetable oils.
The issue is that these PUFAs in vegetable oils are very fragile and subject to oxidative stress. Eating oxidized PUFAs results in inflammation and is the equivalent of adding a sticky layer of plastic to your cells, so that they can’t breathe properly. Suffocating cells is a problem, because it prevents them from getting proper balance of electrolytes, nutrition, and oxygen into the cells.
PUFAs increase free radical damage, which is already a feature of migraine. Furthermore, PUFAs affect some very special ion channels called TRP channels that us migraineurs especially need to be working. And PUFAs and the free radical damage they cause creates a prime habitat for herpes viruses.
According to Dr. Shanahan:
“Maybe 5 percent trans (and other mutant fats) doesn’t sound that scary. The real trouble is not so much that there’s bad fat in the bottles (and other products). The real trouble has to do with the fact that after you eat these distorted, mutated fatty acids, they can reproduce inside you. . . .
Imagine a zombie movie, filmed at the molecular level, except the mutant fatties don’t stumble through your bloodstream in slow motion. Using free radicals, mutated PUFAs convert normal fatty acids into fellow ghouls at the rate of billions per second. I call this conversion-on-contact the zombie effect because, as every horro-movie connoisseur knows, when a zombie bites you, you become one of them. WHen a throng of molecular miscreants starts hacking away at your cells, things can get really scary. Their ability to damage normal PUFAs makes this class of oxidized PUFAs more dangerous than the trans fat we’ve all heard about on the news. Since they’re a lot like trans, only worse, I call them MegaTrans. . . There are many technical names for MegaTrans, including peroxidized fats, lipooxygenases, oxidized fat, lipid peroxides, lipid hydroperoxides, and a few others. [T]hese toxic fats are all gangsters with one thing in common: they’re really bad for you.”
PUFAs Damage Apoprotein Labels
But it’s unfortunately not just the inflammation that these PUFAs cause that is problematic. As it turns out, lipids (ie, fats), are essential for our health because they help our body transport nutrients to the right places. Because oxidized PUFAs look similar to normal lipids, our body doesn’t tarket them for elimination. Instead, they confuse the body and scramble it’s sophisticated nutrient transport and communication network which works via apoprotein tags on the lipoprotein. That’s a huge problem with serious implications, as Dr. Shanahan explains:
“The apoprotein, the protein layer encasing the round lipoporitein . . serves as a kind of address label that helps to ensure that the particles contents end up someplace useful in the body. . . . damage to the lipoprotein’s label disrupts the lipid cycle. . . If your lipoprotein particles have their labels damaged, they can get lost, too. . . . The more MegaTrans rich vegetable oil you eat, and the worse your diet in general – low in antioxidants and particularly low in naturally occuring vitamin E – the faster the [apoprotein coat by which each particle is identified] gets oxidized.”
Get Oxidized Vegetable Oils Out of Your Life
While avoiding PUFAs will at first seem daunting, it will also help you to avoid processed foods which often act as migraine triggers for other reasons. PUFAs are even in coffee. They’re in cookies, chips, salad dressings, etc. Avoiding them will take some adjustment but will greatly benefit your health. Eliminating them from you diet may be one of the most powerful leverage points in getting well and reducing inflammation in your body. It takes about 18 days for oxidized PUFAs to clear from your system.
Getting oxidized vegetable oils (actually, seed oils) out of your life will require some concerted activism and forethought. As you will notice, canola oil is in just about everything. It can be very difficult to eat out at a restaurant, even a very fine one with otherwise healthy ingredients, without consuming canola oil or an olive canola blend or soy oil. Ask your server if there is anything on the menu that does not contain these oils. Ask your server if any of the foods cooked with them can be cooked with olive oil or butter instead. You may even want to consider bringing your own olive oil with you, or salad dressing.
Here’s what Dr. Shanahan Suggests for Healthy Oil and Fat Consumption:
- Unrefined Low PUFA Fats and Oils: Avocado oil, Butter, Coconut Oil, Duck Fat, Ghee, Lard, Olive oil, Peanut oil, Tallow, Sesame oil, Flax seed oil, Walnut oil, Almond oil, Macadamia nut oil. Also: Anything that says cold pressed and unrefined . It must say unrefined! If it says cold pressed but is refined , it’s no good.
- Use These for Cooking: Almond oil, Avocado oil, Butter, Coconut, Duck Fat, Lard, Macadamia nut oil, Peanut oil, Tallow
- Don’t Cook These: Flax, Sesame, Walnut, and ALL processed, refined, and expeller-pressed oils.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into this topic, I suggest reading Dr. Shanahan’s book “Deep Nutrition” or visiting her website: drcate.com