FAQ-Fats and Oils

  • Flax Oil
  • Coconut Oil for Deep Frying
  • Oils for sleeping
  • Heating Polyunsaturated Oils
  • Organic Ghee and the X-factor
  • Erasmus Book on Fats
  • Oleic Acid
  • Hemp or grapeseed oil
  • Supplementing omega-3
  • Avocado oil and lite olive oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Vegans consuming chia seeds, coconut oil, avocados

Fats and Oils

Q. I have heard that I should not take flax oil. Please clarify.

A. Flax oil is fine if it is a good quality and in small amounts (see our Shopping Guide for recommended brands). People are taking too much flax oil–about 1/2 tsp per day is all you need. Remember to always store flax oil in the refrigerator.

Q. Can I use coconut oil for deep frying?

A. We don’t recommend coconut oil for deep frying–it does not have a high enough smoke point and breaks down at high temperature. We recommend tallow or lard for deep frying.

Q.  For about fifteen years after menopause I couldn’t sleep well and the books and websites on sleep never helped.  But I found coconut oil with cod liver oil helped.  Do you think this is what did it and why?
A.  Yes, this makes sense.  These fats supply what the brain needs to function properly, including sleep.

Q. Mary Enig in The Skinny on Fats writes that polyunsaturated oils should never be heated or used in cooking. These oils are contained in healthy foods such as wild salmon. Should these foods, therefore, not be cooked?

A. It is when the oils are removed from the foods that they become dangerous to cook in. Inside the food they are protected. It is fine to cook foods containing polyunsaturates as long as you don’t cook at too high a temperature or burn them.

Q. When organic butter is clarified as when one makes ghee, does this alter the vitamins or destroy the X-factor?

A. No, these vitamins are very heat stable. Only the Wulzen factor is lost. But try to make clarified butter using the lowest possible temperature.

Q. Do you think Udo Eramsus’ book, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, is a good reference?

A. The best book on fats and oils is Mary Enig’s, Know Your Fats. Udo’s book is full of mistakes. Click here to read our review of it.

Q. Why do we see such emphasis on oleic acids, as in the Zone diet?

A. See “The Great Con-ola’, on our website; this is a quote from it:

“Let’s start with some history. The time period is the mid-1980s and the food industry has a problem. In collusion with the American Heart Association, numerous government agencies and departments of nutrition at major universities, the industry had been promoting polyunsaturated oils as a heart-healthy alternative to “artery-clogging” saturated fats. Unfortunately, it had become increasingly clear that polyunsaturated oils, particularly corn oil and soybean oil, cause numerous health problems, including and especially cancer.1

The industry was in a bind. It could not continue using large amounts of liquid polyunsaturated oils and make health claims about them in the face of mounting evidence of their dangers. Nor could manufacturers return to using traditional healthy saturates—butter, lard, tallow, palm oil and coconut oil—without causing an uproar. Besides, these fats cost too much for the cut-throat profit margins in the industry.

The solution was to embrace the use of monounsaturated oils, such as olive oil. Studies had shown that olive oil has a “better” effect than polyunsaturated oils on cholesterol levels and other blood parameters. Besides, Ancel Keys and other promoters of the diet-heart idea had popularized the notion that the Mediterranean diet—rich in olive oil and conjuring up images of a carefree existence on sun-drenched islands—protected against heart disease and ensured a long and healthy life.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsored the First Colloquium on Monounsaturates in Philadelphia. The meeting was chaired by Scott Grundy, a prolific writer and apologist for the notion that cholesterol and animal fats cause heart disease. Representatives from the edible oil industry, including Unilever, were in attendance. The Second Colloquium on Monounsaturates took place in Bethesda, Maryland, early in 1987. Dr. Grundy was joined by Claude Lenfant, head of the NHLBI, and speakers included Fred Mattson, who had spent many years at Proctor and Gamble, and the Dutch scientist Martign Katan, who would later publish research on the problems with trans fatty acids. It was at this time that articles extolling the virtues of olive oil began to appear in the popular press.

Promotion of olive oil, which had a long history of use, seemed more scientifically sound to the health-conscious consumer than the promotion of corn and soy oil, which could only be extracted with modern stainless steel presses. The problem for the industry was that there was not enough olive oil in the world to meet its needs. And, like butter and other traditional fats, olive oil was too expensive to use in most processed foods. The industry needed a less expensive monounsaturated oil.

Rapeseed oil was a monounsaturated oil that had been used extensively in many parts of the world, notably in China, Japan and India. It contains almost 60 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (compared to about 70 percent in olive oil). Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the mono-unsaturated fatty acids in rapeseed oil are erucic acid, a 22-carbon monounsaturated fatty acid that had been associated with Keshan’s disease, characterized by fibrotic lesions of the heart. In the late 1970s, using a technique of genetic manipulation involving seed splitting,2 Canadian plant breeders came up with a variety of rapeseed that produced a monounsaturated oil low in 22-carbon erucic acid and high in 18-carbon oleic acid.

The new oil referred to as LEAR oil, for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed, was slow to catch on in the US. In 1986, Cargill announced the sale of LEAR oil seed to US farmers and provided LEAR oil processing at its Riverside, North Dakota plant but prices dropped and farmers took a hit.”3

See also Mary Enig’s Know Your Fats column, “Some Typical Questions and Misconceptions about Fats and Oils.”

Q: Do you recommend hemp oil or grape seed oil?

A: We do not recommend either of these oils.  Hemp seed oil contains cannabanoids that have caused people consuming the oil to flunk their urine tests for drugs; and both hemp oil and grape seed oil are high in omega-6 fatty acids–we already have too much of these in our diets.

Q: Is it true that coconut is counter indicated for people whose renal function is failing to a larger percent?  If so, is this the only case where coconut is counter indicated?

A: Where did you read coconut oil is counter indicated in kidney failure?  When I Google “coconut oil kidney failure” I get one study showing a protective effect and none showing an adverse effect in the first two pages.

Q: What do you think about rice bran oil?

A: Rice bran oil is an industrially processed oil high in omega 6, so we don’t recommend it. It was not used in traditional diets.

Q: My core statement in relation to coconut oil is that there is no risk of increased LDL when coconut oil is consumed in the presence of adequate omega-6 and omega-3 fats.

The problem is to know which are adequate sources of omega-3 apart from oily fish (becoming very expensive) and pharmaceutical supplements (also expensive).

Having learned that milk and meat from pasture-fed cows is a source of omeg-3, and that fresh greens are beneficial in the human diet, I have been searching on the internet for information about the amount of omega-3 in various vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, pea, bean, and so on. Nothing useful came out of that.

To ensure some omega-3 in my own diet I put ground up linseed on my morning cereal, and also add full-cream cottage cheese, as I once saw on the internet that this will stimulate the enzyme system that converts alpha linolenic to EPA and DHA. The name attached to that advice was Budwig, an Austrian medical person I think, possibly mentioned by Dr Mercola.

A: First, it doesn’t matter whether coconut oil increases LDL because LDL levels don’t matter. But I doubt that it even does increase LDL because the body uses LDL to fight infection and coconut oil also fights infection.

Second, if you are taking coconut oil and other saturated fats, your body actually needs very little omega-3 because saturated fats ensure that the omega-3s are used very effectively and conserved in the tissues.  So you don’t need to be adding extra omega-3s to your diet, in fact this could be harmful–it is dangerous to overdose on omega-3 fatty acids.  If you want to put about 1/2 tsp flax oil in your salad dressing, that is fine, but any more would not be good.  And you definitely don’t need to worry about getting enough omega-6–they are in all foods.

Q: What to you think of tuna oil?  I was told that that tuna oil is higher than cod liver oil in DHA than EPA which is better for the development of a baby’s brain.

A: Tuna oil is fish oil and we do not recommend any of the fish oils.  We recommend certain brands of cod liver oil to get vitamins A and D.  You will also get EPA and DHA–both necessary for brain development.  However, you can get too much EPA and DHA by taking fish oils.

Q.  My understanding is that cod liver il is primarily a source of A and D, not omega-3s (though I think it is a source of omega-3, my understanding is that it’s not necessarily a great source of omega-3s).  If I wanted to supplement specifically omega-3s, what would you recommend?

A.  It’s a difficult subject and there are many opinions.  Chris Masterjohn believes that we don’t need any of the 18-carbon omega-3s, but only the elongated ones (DHA and EPA), which are plentiful in cod liver oil.

The other key factor is saturated fat–the more saturated fat you eat, the less omega-3 of any type you need because with saturated fat, the body conserves them. Plus, people can get too much DHA and EPA if they are taking fish oils.

Egg yolks from pastured hens, liver and oily fish are good sources of DHA and EPA.  You can also use a SMALL amount of flax oil in salad dressings in the context of a diet rich in saturated fat.

Q.  Is it true that avocado oil has an excellent fatty acid composition – maybe even better than olive oil? And that it also has very low peroxide values – better than olive oil?  Also – I see a lot of “light” (tasting) olive oils. Does this always mean it has been heat extracted? I’ve never seen a cold-pressed “light” olive oil.

A.  I think avocado oil would be fine–it is high in oleic acid.  I am not sure what is going on with the lite olive oil–my guess is that polyunsaturated oils are added.  In any case, it is best avoided.

Q.  I was wondering whether by being a vegan and consuming chia seeds, coconut oil and avocados provides me with an efficient source of fat for maintaining biochemical processes in my body.

A.  We do not recommend a vegan diet.  Chia seeds, coconut oil and avocados will not supply the crucial fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2.  You need to at least eat butter from grass-fed cows for that, and hopefully take cod liver oil.

Tim Boyd was born and raised in Ohio, graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a degree in computer engineering, and worked in the defense industry in Northern Virginia for over 20 years. During that time, a slight case of arthritis led him to discover that nutrition makes a difference and nutrition became a serious hobby. After a pleasant and satisfying run in the electronics field, he decided he wanted to do something more important. He is now arthritis free and enjoying his dream job working for the Weston A. Price Foundation.

13 Responses to FAQ-Fats and Oils

  1. Cindy Bruwer says:

    Health practitioner
    We are moving forward with our trans fat project and seeking info toward replacing them esp. for restauranteurs. (We do have your book, Know Your Fats.) If you look at New York oil guidelines they are all about more soy and canola and we are hoping to find a way to do a little better…one time use of oils, omega 9…..Question. What about tea seed oil?Any other suggestions?

    • farmermarywana says:

      So whats best oil for frying? most high-smoke-point oils have too much pufa (polyunsaturated oil).
      What about baking with dough?

      for example, adding oil to dough, helps prevent dry bread. help, i need alternative.

  2. El Ash says:

    Oil for hot stir-frying
    What oil do you recommend for fast stirfrying (ie traditional thai food) at a high temperature?

  3. april says:

    starting baby on solids
    I am wondering what are the best solid foods to start my baby on. I know that fats are extremely important to infants. Should I be giving her avocados or coconut?

  4. Ronny says:

    olive oil
    What cooking applications are appropriate for extra vergion olive oil. Can it be used for sautaying (pardon the misspelling)?

  5. Jonathan says:

    Sauteing should probably not be done with EVOO – it could harm the antioxidants and fatty acids, which are mostly monounsaturated. I usually saute with butter or coconut oil – both work very nicely, although the flavour of EVCO doesn’t always fit.

    Alas, this is rather late… both avocado and coconut are fine, since both are very low in omega-6. But avocado is mostly monounsaturated, while coconut is mostly saturated. If you give her avocado, be sure to also give her some coconut oil for the saturated fatty acids.

    @El Ash
    Lard or beef fat would be best.

  6. Kathryn says:

    This week on ABC evening news with Diane Sawyer, she will be promoting a new book “The End of Sickness.” It became available today through Amazon. I was horrified after breezing through excerpts because it appears its author is finding positive reasons for the use of statin drugs for treating inflammation along with aspirin, etc. My intuition seems to be not to trust its offerings. Do you have any opinion?

  7. Susan Sherman Rosenberg says:

    Coconut Oil for the Skin
    I am a massage therapist — I make my own body oil which I use on myself, my family, and my clients. I have not found much written evidence to support the health benefits of using coconut oil on the skin, however, from my own personal experience I can see and feel how my skin has improved in texture and color. When my clients ask me why I use coconut oil, I do not have any intellectual or scientific answers — can you help with this?

    Susan Sherman Rosenberg

  8. melissa putt says:

    Is Grundy a dissenter or promotor of saturated fat?
    Thank-you for such thorough reviews of research. After scrolling through much internet content and hard copy journal research I am unable to find definitive sources of research for Dr. Scott Grundy retracting his support for a modified saturated fat diet. His webpage is absolutely pro-monounsaturated oil and lowered LDL-C. Like others I have always read that he recanted his support for such research but that isn’t evident in his public persona and research. Any direction would be helpful.

  9. Brigitte Pisarek says:

    Is there anything healthy about olive oil?
    These days, oilive oil is being thought of as the healthy oil. Would you please tell me if it is a healthy oil, or why it is not.

  10. Mamasita says:

    Good sources of Omega 6’s
    My son and I have been diagnosed with pyroluria, a condition where one dumps zinc, B6 and omega 6’s. Now I’m confused about what ratio of omega 3’s to omega 6’s we should be eating. I also want to make sure we’re getting the best sources. My son does not well-tolerate the glycerine used in gel capsules (he doesn’t tolerate anything sweet). We currently cook with high quality organic sunflower oil, olive oil and ghee, and my son takes a tablespoon of cod liver oil every few days. I take 260 mg of EPO in a gelcap but haven’t been able to find it without the glycerine or other bad ingredients I don’t want to give my son (caramel color, etc.). I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!

  11. Justin Roy Olson says:

    I used to use hemp oil from NUTIVA on a regular basis until I started using cod liver oil. They have many articles and information about how hemp will not cause you to fail a drug test. And also how some of the top members in the government use hemp and pass their drug tests with no issues as I did many times. It is true however it is loaded with omega 6.

  12. Marilyn Daugherty says:

    I’d like info on sunflower oil please, Good?

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