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Are You Speeding Aging with Vegetable Oils?

Is your choice of cooking oil leading to extra wrinkles, weight gain, and increased risk of disease? Vegetable oil intake, from corn, safflower, sunflower and canola oils, has increased more than 400 percent over the past 75 years, replacing the world's time-tested, healthy traditional oils and fats, and corresponding with increased inflammatory disease.

Studies show our rising intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated oil (PUFA), to be associated with increases in cancer, heart attacks, arthritis, immune problems, Alzheimer's disease, weight gain, pain and other signs of inflammation and aging. These vegetable oils are found in almost every packaged and restaurant food, salad dressing and kitchen cupboard in America. French fries, fried calamari, tempura, donuts, chips and other fried favorites are generally cooked in some kind of vegetable oil.

The biggest problem with most vegetable oils is that they are highly perishable and when subjected to heat, light or moisture they undergo a toxic change called oxidation. Oxidation can stimulate more than 60 diseases of aging. Oxidation is aging. Oxidized oils attack collagen causing skin wrinkles and age spots. These brown skin spots often form on the face and backs of the hands, but also in organs such as the heart. Lipofuscin deposits on the retinas are associated with macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. Studies with animals show excess polyunsaturated oils accelerate these deposits.

The drop of polyunsaturated oil inside a sunflower seed or kernel of corn is a fragile liquid uniquely packaged by nature to stay fresh with its own antioxidants such as vitamin E. Its protective skin keeps out light, oxygen and moisture, all elements that turn good oils into toxic oils.

The modern oil-refining processes use destructive pressure and high heat, while removing the natural preservatives in seeds. Many also use toxic solvents. This is particularly the case with canola oil, which although not as high in omega-6 fats as other oils, requires extra processing. Oils in clear plastic or glass continue to deteriorate from light. When vegetable oils are used for cooking they become even more damaged.

Even if not oxidized, most vegetable oils contain an unhealthy level of omega- 6 fat, which shifts a necessary balance with omega-3 fat. Snacking on a handful of sunflower seeds or an ear of corn provides a healthful amount of omega-6 oil. Pouring pure corn or sunflower oil onto your salad or into your frying pan gives you far too much.

Traditional fats, including extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil; grass-fed butter; organic coconut fat; and even unrefined lard, duck and beef fat (when from healthy pastured animals) are healthful and delicious fats that help prevent premature aging and disease. The longest-lived population on earth inhabits the island of Okinawa, where cooking is done in lard. The French, famous for their cuisine, regularly use lard and duck fat and live longer and suffer less heart disease than Americans, who avoid lard as if it were poison.

Another healthy alternative is olive oil, which is not as perishable as other vegetable oils. Extra virgin olive oil actually prevents certain cancers, whereas PUFA's increase cancer risk, particularly breast cancer. Olive oil boosts beneficial HDL levels, whereas vegetable oils reduce this heart-protective substance. Stick with cold-pressed varieties in dark green or brown bottles or cans, which prevent oxidation.

Cultures that use unrefined coconut oil (a saturated fat) are also long-lived and relatively free of heart disease and cancers. Studies that implicate coconut oil with disease use hydrogenated, refined versions. According to the Indian Medical Association, physicians are finding an "alarming" increase in heart disease and type 2 diabetes correlating with the increased use of "heart healthy" vegetable oils and decreased use of traditional Indian fats such as ghee (butter) and coconut fat.

Recent studies show saturated fats are necessary for health and when from healthy sources do not lead to disease. A recent Harvard study found women who eat more saturted fats have less artery plaque. Past studies linking saturated fats with disease combined trans fats with saturated fats, making it appear saturates were to blame, when in fact it was processed (hydrogenated) vegetable oils.

Choose traditional fats and olive oil. It will not only protect you from disease and slow aging, it makes food taste better.

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