Vegetable oils tend to have an imbalanced ratio of essential fatty acids, or EFAs. EFAs act as structural components of cell membranes. As the human body isn’t capable of producing many of them on its own, these vital nutrients must be obtained through diet.
You can think of EFAs as the “grease” that keeps your cell membranes fluid, elastic, permeable (so nutrients can get in), and ultimately functional. EFAs also aid in cell growth and repair, without which your cells would starve and your body would be unable to produce vital living components such as red blood and immune cells.
But EFAs also need to be consumed at the proper ratios in order to provide these benefits, and vegetable oils and many other common foods just don’t fit the bill. Many of these foods are dominant in one type of EFA (the kind that’s highly unstable and leads to oxidative damage), while lacking in the other (the kind that protects your body against oxidative damage).
The 2 Types of EFAs
Let’s break down these two types of EFAs so you have a clearer understanding:
Omea-3 fatty acids – The primary Omega-3 fatty acid found in food is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts into the polyunsaturated fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both types are necessary for maintaining intestinal health and optimal production of digestive enzymes and bile.
The human body is capable of converting ALA into both EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is generally very low (though the human body is good at adapting). Even so, eating foods high in EPA and DHA or supplementing is often the best option for individuals trying to keep their inflammation levels in check.
Omega-3 fats are what vegetable oils and many other processed foods generally lack.
Omega-6 fatty acids – Omega-6 fatty acids like linoleic acid (LA) and its derivative gammalinolenic acid (GLA) are prolific throughout the modern food supply. They’re especially prominent in vegetable oils, which are used in all sorts of processed, deep-fried, and convenience foods.
Salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and almost every processed food you can think of contain these pro-inflammatory vegetable oils. In addition, practically everything cooked at a restaurant with oil contains high Omega-6 vegetable oils (mostly soy oil and canola oil). Even your typical health food store carries hundreds of processed foods with these vegetable oils.
Many so-called “healthy” restaurants are also using these oils either to cook with or as an added ingredient in the case of prepared foods. It’s a main ingredient in their salad dressing too!
Moreover, these oils become even more toxic when cooked at high temperature, which is generally the case in restaurants. In addition, high heat is often used in the processing of canned, bottled, and packaged foods. You must know that if a food is fried, stir fried, or sautéed and it’s served in a restaurant or sold at a grocery store, chances are it contains toxic, high Omega-6 vegetable oil.
Because of the combination of intense high heat and the ability of the food to easily absorb these toxic oils, fried foods might be the worst cancer-causing offenders. This includes french fries, doughnuts, fried chicken, fried fish and seafood, etc. I have even found that many veggie burgers are fried.
Additionally, Omega-6-dense oils are often stored for long periods of time, causing them to turn rancid. The combination of frying and rancidity make oils that are already toxic even worse by introducing damaging free radicals, which oxidize your blood and cholesterol, and lead to conditions such as heart disease.
While Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are both essential for health, thestandard Western diet is overwhelmingly high in Omega-6s compared to Omega-3s. Science has shown this to be a leading driver of inflammation due to the fact that Omega-6 competes with Omega-3 in the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA, which are necessary for protection against inflammation and disease.
Here’s what researchers from The Center for Genetics in Washington, DC, found when evaluating the role of Omega-3s and Omega-6s in a healthy human diet:
Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio … promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.The general consensus is that the optimal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is 1:1. Keep in mind that the typical Western diet holds a ratio of around 15:1, which explains why systemic inflammatory diseases are so chronic and rampant in today’s society.