Omega-6 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that is essential to human health. Today, most consumption of PUFAs is dominated by vegetable oils from soybeans, corn, and sunflower. Before these industrial seed oils were readily available, most of our omega-6 consumption was from fresh, whole foods like nuts, seeds, and pastured meats.

The more concerning form of omega-6 is in vegetable oils. Repeated heating of vegetable oils is common practice in the food industry, particularly in large deep-fryers, because it significantly reduces the cost of food preparation. In deep-fat frying, oil is heated to temperatures greater than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, while also being exposed to moisture and air. This causes thermal lipid oxidation, resulting in the formation of polar compounds and yielding new chemical functional groups that deposit in the cooking oil. Repeated heating also degrades the natural antioxidant vitamin E, which normally protects fatty acids against lipid oxidation.

Consuming heated vegetable oils has been associated with CVD risk, and there is a direct relationship between CVD risk and consumption of cooking oil polar compounds. Regular consumption of repeatedly heated vegetable oil has been shown to increase blood pressure, decrease nitric oxide, and increase total cholesterol. Repeatedly heated oil can also cause vascular inflammation and changes to vasculature that predispose to atherosclerosis.

So if the problem is high heat, can unheated canola, soybean, or sunflower oil be a part of a healthy diet? To answer this question, we really need to understand how these oils are made.

There are three ways that oils are commonly extracted from their source:

  • Rendering: this method uses heat only
  • Chemicals: this method uses a solvent (usually hexane) and then subsequent heating to evaporate off the solvent
  • Press it out: this method is purely mechanical. These oils are commonly labeled as “cold-pressed” or “expeller pressed.”

The majority of oils high in omega-6 PUFAs are produced using the second method. This means that even if you don’t heat your vegetable oil during cooking, it has likely already been heated long before it made its way to the supermarket. After this extraction process, many oils are further refined, removing even more nutrients. The ultimate result? Energy-dense, nutrient-poor oils. Even if you choose a cold-pressed seed oil, you’d still be better off choosing a more nutrient-dense and flavorful option like olive oil or coconut oil.

At Mind and Body Solutions we have a protocol to help you bring in healthier omega-6 fats into your diet, along with a healthier lifestyle to help you feel like a better you. Call us today to set up an initial consultation and see what we can do for you! 281-616-3816.

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