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  • Writer's pictureJenna Wilson-Levin

Some people say seed oils are bad for your health. Should you be worried?

Social media influencers have raised concerns about the alleged toxicity of seed oils,

often referring to them as the "hateful eight." Canola, corn, cottonseed, grape seed, rice

bran, safflower, soy, and sunflower oils have been accused of causing a range of health

issues, including headaches, compromised immunity, heart disease, diabetes, and

cognitive impairment. Despite these claims, it's important to recognize that seed oils

primarily consist of unsaturated fats, which have long been considered healthier than

saturated fats, like those found in butter, which can contribute to arterial blockage. Recently, in fact, publications from Consumer Reports and Harvard have advocated a more nuanced view of health impacts from seed oils.


The toxicity associated with seed oils is purportedly linked to the byproducts of the

extraction process, involving heat and solvents. This method is believed to introduce

unstable molecules and chemical compounds that could potentially convert healthy

polyunsaturated fats into harmful trans fats.


Although the impact of trace levels of hexane in oils on human health remains uncertain, it

poses environmental and occupational risks, especially for workers exposed to it. Seed

oils, however, contain fewer trans fats compared to dairy products like milk or butter, as

they are only briefly heated.


For those who are concerned about the potential health risks, there are alternative

options such as cold-pressed oils, produced without heat or chemicals, and expeller-pressed oils, which also avoid these ingredients. Cold-pressed oils may retain more

nutrients due to the absence of heat in their production.


The larger debate surrounding seed oils stems from the fact that they are repeatedly heated at high

temperatures, leading to the accumulation of harmful chemicals. The primary source of

this problem can be found in deep fryers used in factories and restaurants, which are

often replaced infrequently. Consuming seed oils in home-cooked meals is generally considered less cause for concern by experts.


Seed oils are also commonly found in various packaged products, including chips, crackers,

baked goods, salad dressings, mayonnaise, and margarine. They are favored for their

affordability and neutral flavor, making them popular choices in the food industry.

Some individuals who eliminate these foods from their diets report feeling more

energetic and losing weight. However, it's important to note that these products are

often high in calories, sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates. The positive changes

experienced may be attributed to a reduction in processed food consumption as a whole,

rather than exclusively to the elimination of seed oils.


Moreover, it's essential to recognize that many whole foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids,

like nuts and seeds, are indeed beneficial and need not be avoided. A healthy, balanced diet

should incorporate a variety of fatty acids, some of which are naturally present in seed

oils.


While concerns have been raised about the potential health risks associated with seed

oils, they continue to be widely used in various food products and cooking practices. The

evidence on their toxicity is inconclusive, and it's essential to consider the overall quality

of one's diet and lifestyle choices. By focusing on a balanced diet that includes a variety

of fatty acids and being mindful of the way seed oils are prepared and consumed,

individuals can make informed choices that promote their well-being.


References:


“The 8 Most-Popular Seed Oils: Their Risks and Benefits.” GoodRx, GoodRx,

18 Oct. 2023.


Liao, Sharon. “Do Seed Oils Make You Sick?” Consumer Reports, 31 May 2022,


“Scientists Debunk Claims of Seed Oil Health Risks.” News, 24 June 2022,

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