Replacing dangerous vegetable oils such as corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil with healthy fats such as lard, butter or coconut oil is a simple way to boost your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease, including cancer
Vegetable oils are a concentrated source of omega-6 linoleic acid, which has led to a severe imbalance between the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in most people’s diets. This imbalance appears to be why vegetable oils promote cancer
Consumption of saturated animal fats such as butter, lard and beef tallow fell by 27% between 1970 and 2014, while consumption of vegetable oils rose by 87%
Historically, mankind consumed omega-3 and omega-6 at a ratio of 1-to-1. Today, most get 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3, and this imbalance has been linked to heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases, inflammatory conditions and cancer, especially neuroblastoma, breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer
Your body metabolizes omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs into eicosanoids (hormone-like substances), and as a general rule, omega-3 eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory while omega-6 eicosanoids have proinflammatory effects. Part of the benefits of omega-3 fats is that they block the proinflammatory effects of omega-6 eicosanoids
Dietary fats are a crucial component of a healthy diet, but the devil’s in the details, and the type of fats you choose can make a world of difference. Replacing dangerous oils with healthy fats is one simple way to boost your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Sadly, the fats that promote ill health are the very ones we’ve been told are the healthiest, and vice versa. Among the absolute worst types of fat you can eat are vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower and canola oil, found in most processed foods and restaurant meals.
According to the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture report,1 “U.S. Trends in Food Availability,” consumption of saturated animal fats such as butter, lard and beef tallow fell by 27% between 1970 and 2014, while consumption of vegetable oils rose by 87%. Intake of salad and cooking oils specifically rose by a remarkable 248%.
In my view, processed vegetable oils, rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are the most dangerous dietary factor of them all, taking a greater toll on human health than high fructose corn syrup even.
Not only have vegetable oils been linked to heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel disorder, and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, they’ve also been linked to cancer, especially neuroblastoma, breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer. 2
Vegetable Oils — A Hidden Cause of Cancer
In a November 8, 2019, Medium article,3 Maria Cross, a nutritionist with a master of science degree, discusses the science behind vegetable oils and what makes them carcinogenic. She explains:
“There are two classes of PUFA: omega-6 and omega-3. Although functionally distinct and non-interchangeable, these two classes are perpetually engaged in a metabolic balancing act, pushing and pulling as they compete for absorption in the body.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with omega-6 PUFAs: we need them … If omega-6 fat is essential to health, it makes no sense that it can also cause cancer …
That’s why scientists believe that it is not omega-6 per se that is to blame; it’s the balance between the two groups of PUFA that is out of kilter and wreaking havoc on our bodies. We evolved on, and are genetically adapted to, a diet that provides more or less equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-64 …
With the industrialization of our diets, and the vast quantities of vegetable cooking oils that go into them, the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 has shifted enormously and we consume up to 25 times5 more omega-6 than omega-3 …
There can only be consequences, and indeed there are: experimental data6 supports the theory that it is this skewed balance between the two PUFAs that influences the development of a tumor.”
How Lopsided PUFA Ratios Promote Cancer
The cancer connection is also reviewed in a 2016 paper,7 “Role of Diets Rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 in the Development of Cancer,” which points out that “Omega-6 and omega-3 PUFAs often compete with one another for metabolism and act in an opposing manner.”
Your body metabolizes omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs into eicosanoids, which are hormone-like substances, and as a general rule, omega-3 eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory while omega-6 eicosanoids have proinflammatory effects.8 Part of the benefits of omega-3 fats is that they block the proinflammatory effects of omega-6 eicosanoids.
As noted in the 2016 paper9 cited above, “several studies have demonstrated that omega-6 PUFAs induce progression in certain types of cancer,” while “omega-3 PUFAs possess a therapeutic role against certain types of cancer.”
Table 1 in that paper lists eight known mechanisms by which omega-3 lowers your risk of cancer. For example, omega-3 has been shown to inhibit insulin-like growth factor (IGF) and down-regulate growth factor receptors involved in cancer.
Omega-3 fats also reduce angiogenesis and cell-to-cell adhesion, improve the structure and function of cells, combat inflammation (which is a hallmark of cancer10) and induce cancer cell apoptosis (cell death).11 Table 2 in that same paper lists the pro-tumor mechanisms of omega-6 fats, which include:12
Creation of reactive species that damage DNA
17-beta-estradiol epoxidation, which in turn generates a carcinogenic compound
Enhancing the genotoxic effects of other compounds
As explained in my book, “Superfuel,” co-written with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., omega-6 also inhibits cardiolipin, an important component of the inner membrane of your mitochondria that needs to be saturated in DHA in order for it to function properly.13
Cardiolipin can be likened to a cellular alarm system that triggers apoptosis (cell death) by signaling caspase-3 when something goes wrong with the cell. If the cardiolipin is not saturated with DHA, it cannot signal caspase-3, and hence apoptosis does not occur. As a result, dysfunctional cells are allowed to continue to grow, which can turn into a cancerous cell.
Vegetable Oils Promote Virtually All Chronic Disease
Cancer is by far not the only health risk associated with vegetable oils. As mentioned, they promote virtually all chronic disease by throwing your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio off kilter. But they also influence your disease risk in other ways.
Importantly, vegetable oils degrade when heated, forming extremely toxic oxidation products, including cyclic aldehydes.14 Cyclic aldehydes cause oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) associated with heart disease. They also crosslink tau protein and create neurofibrillary tangles, thereby contributing to the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
As explained by Dr. Cate Shanahan in her book, “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food,”15 in order to understand how dietary fats affect your health you need to understand how fats oxidize.
The omega-6 PUFAs found in vegetable oils have highly perishable bonds that react with oxygen, creating a free radical cascade that turns normal fatty acids in your body into dangerous high-energy molecules that zip around, wreaking havoc in a way similar to that of radiation.
What’s more, many of the vegetable oils produced today — especially corn and soy oil — are genetically engineered and a significant source of glyphosate exposure, and glyphosate has also been linked to gut damage and other health problems.
Shanahan’s book also expounds on the hazards of 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE), which forms during the processing of most vegetable oils. 4HNE is highly toxic, especially to your gut bacteria, and consumption of 4HNE has been correlated with having an obesogenic balance of gut flora.
“You can’t design a better delivery vehicle for a toxin that’s going to destroy your health slowly over the course of maybe 10, 20 years, depending on the genetics of your antioxidant system capacity.”
Shanahan also notes that organic vegetable oil is not the answer, as 4HNE occurs even if the oil is obtained from organic crops. It’s an intrinsic byproduct of the refining and processing of the oil, no matter how healthy the oil initially was.
The omega-6 found in vegetable oils also damages the endothelium (the cells lining your blood vessels), allowing LDL and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles to penetrate into the subendothelium.
In other words, these oils get integrated into your cell and mitochondrial membranes, and once these membranes are impaired, it sets the stage for all sorts of health problems.
They also make cell membranes less fluid, which impacts hormone transporters in the cell membrane and slows your metabolic rate, and inhibit the removal of senescent cells — aged, damaged or crippled cells that have lost the ability to reproduce and produce inflammatory cytokines that rapidly accelerate disease and aging.
Vegetable oils also strip your liver of glutathione (which produces antioxidant enzymes), thereby lowering your antioxidant defenses,16 and inhibit delta-6 desaturase (delta-6), an enzyme involved in the conversion of short-chained omega-3s to longer chained omega-3s in your liver.17
Address Your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio to Protect Your Health
Marine-based omega-3 is one of the most important fats in the human diet, as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are actually key structural elements of cells, including your brain cells, and not just simple fuel. If you don’t have enough DHA and EPA, your body’s ability to repair and maintain healthy cell structures is seriously impaired.
The key that many overlook is the importance of getting the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 right. Simply adding in more omega-3 might not be sufficient if you’re not also taking steps to significantly lower your omega-6 intake, and vegetable oils are a primary source.
As noted in the 2002 paper,18 “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids”:
“Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, 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.
In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect.
The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2–3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences.
These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial.
Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of omega-3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies …”
Since most processed foods and restaurant foods contain these oils, ridding your diet of them means ditching processed fare and restaurant meals, and cooking from scratch using healthier cooking fats. While you do need omega-6, it should be in its unprocessed form, not industrial vegetable oils. Good sources are whole, raw plant seeds and tree nuts.
Healthiest Fats for Cooking
While the devil’s in the details, and the details may be complicated, the simplest way to understand what a healthy diet consists of is to think back 100 years or so and consider what food was back then, and how it was prepared.
What you’re aiming for is real food — whole food that is as close to its natural state as possible. This may be particularly important when it comes to fats. Again, ditching vegetable oils and any food cooked with it can go a long way toward lowering inflammation and mitochondrial and cellular damage, which will protect you from a variety of common killers, including cancer. As for what to replace the vegetable oils with, the following are among your healthiest options:
•Organic pastured pork lard — A 2015 analysis19 of more than 1,000 raw foods ranked raw separated pork fat, also known as pork lard, as the eighth healthiest food on a list of 100.20 Valuable nutrients found in lard include vitamin D,21 omega-3 fats,22 monounsaturated fats23 (the same fats found in avocados and olive oil24), saturated fats25 and choline.26
•Coconut oil is another excellent cooking oil that is loaded with health benefits.
•Olive oil — Authentic olive oil contains healthy fatty acids that can help lower your risk of heart disease. While the standard recommendation has been to avoid using olive oil for cooking and to only use it cold, recent research27 in which 10 popular cooking oils were compared contradicts this advice, showing extra-virgin olive oil actually scored best for both oxidative stability and lack of harmful compounds produced when heated.
A word of caution is warranted, however. Fake olive oil abounds,28 so it’s important to take the time to investigate your sources. Many are adulterated with cheap vegetable oils or nonhuman grade olive oils,29 which are harmful to health in a number of ways. For more information, see “Is Your Olive Oil Fake?” where I cover this topic in-depth.
•Organic butter (preferably made from organic grass fed raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads — Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
•Organic ghee is even better, as you remove the milk solids that many have problems with — Ghee is pure fat with no carbs and is what I personally use. The best way to make it is to place it in a glass container in a dehydrator and don’t heat it higher than 100 degrees F. to preserve the quality.
You can suck off the milk solids with a glass baster. Once you have the ghee you don’t even need to refrigerate it as it is stable at room temperature for many weeks.
To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw nuts, raw dairy products and olive oil. Also increase your animal-based omega-3 fat intake by eating more sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring or wild-caught Alaskan salmon, or take a supplement such as krill oil.
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2019
As the baby-boomers age, blindness from age-related macular degeneration is on the rise. More than 3 million more people will become victims in the next five years. Eating right can lower your risk
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older. It affects more than 1.75 million people in the U.S. and is expected to strike as many as 3 million in the next five years.
The macula is the small spot near the center of the retina. The eye needs it for central vision to see objects straight ahead. When the macula becomes damaged, it severely limits your ability to see things in your central line of vision.
As AMD progresses, a blurred area develops near the center of your vision. Objects may not appear as sharp or bright as they used to. Colors seem faded. That loss of central vision can interfere with daily activities like recognizing faces, reading, driving, working, cooking, or watching TV.
Besides age, the biggest risk factor for AMD is smoking. Other risk factors include sun exposure, high blood pressure and obesity.
Studies have found certain nutrients protect against the progression of AMD. Researchers at the National Eye Institute conducted two Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2).[i]
The first AREDS study showed that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper reduce the risk of late-stage AMD by 25%.
The AREDS2 study found that a combination of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in place of beta-carotene was just as effective. [ii] Carotenoids were also believed to be safer than beta-carotene for smokers at higher risk of lung cancer.
The AREDS2 nutrient combination is widely available in supplement form. But in addition to those nutrients studies show other foods and compounds are effective to reduce the risk and progression of AMD and improve vision.
Multiple studies show that supplementing with carotenoids and antioxidants improves AMD. In one randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study from a Veterans Administration Hospital 90 patients were assigned to receive 10 mg of lutein alone, or 10 mg of lutein plus a combination of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, or a placebo. After 12 months they found that either alone or in combination with other nutrients, lutein improved visual function.
But it’s not just supplements. Eating more foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin reduces AMD risk. In a prospective cohort study published in JAMA, Harvard researchers followed more than 100,000 people from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in the United States. Based on diet reports the researchers found that those eating the most foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40 percent reduction in AMD risk compared to those eating the least. Other carotenoids including beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene, were linked with a 25 to 35 percent lower risk.
Here are seven foods and nutrients proven to support eye health and reduce your risk of AMD.
1. Olive Oil
In an Australian study of 6,734 people aged 58 to 69 years, researchers collected dietary information over five years. Ten years later they measured the participants’ macula for signs of early or late AMD. They found that eating 100 ml of olive oil every week cut AMD rates by 52 percent compared to lower olive oil intakes. That’s just about seven tablespoons, or less than a half cup of olive oil a week.
2. Goji Berries
Swiss researchers found that goji berries may reduce the risk of AMD. They conducted a double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 150 people aged 65 to 70 years. Half the subjects received 13.7 grams per day of a milk-based formulation containing goji berry – also called wolfberry – or a placebo for 90 days. Goji berries are high in antioxidants and zeaxanthin.
The subjects were tested for blood levels of zeaxanthin and antioxidants. They were also examined for the appearance of drusen in the macula. Drusen are yellow deposits under the retina. They are made up of lipids, a fatty protein, and their presence indicates an increased risk of AMD. In the study, drusen increased in the placebo group but remained stable in the goji berry group.
In addition, zeaxanthin blood levels increased by 26 percent in the goji group and antioxidant capacity increased 57 percent. Those measures did not change in the placebo group.
A study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute found rosemary may protect against macular degeneration. Researchers discovered that carnosic acid, a component of rosemary, protects your retina from degeneration and toxicity. They treated retinal cells with carnosic acid found in rosemary and found it triggered the production of antioxidant enzymes in the cells. That in turn lowered cell-damaging free radicals. They also tested carnosic acid in animals, finding that mice treated with it suffered less vision damage when exposed to light.
Australian and Italian researchers proved the Mediterranean spice saffron helps slow progression of AMD and improve vision. They conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of people with early stage AMD. One group in the study supplemented with 20 mg per day of saffron. After just 90 days the researchers saw significant improvement in the saffron group.[iii]
Then the researchers tested a group of 29 patients aged 55 to 85 with early-stage AMD. The patients received 20 mg per day of saffron as a supplement for about 14 months. All of the patients reported an improvement in their quality of vision. They experienced improvements in contrast and color perception, reading ability, and vision in low lighting. All of that added up to a substantial improvement in the patients’ quality of life.[iv]
The researchers noted that saffron from the crocus flower contains chemical compounds called crocin and crocetin. These are antioxidant derivatives of carotenoids. Crocin protects photoreceptors from light-induced death. Crocetin increases the availability of oxygen to the cells.
A Harvard study found that daily supplementation with B vitamins may reduce the risk of AMD. Researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 5,442 female health care professionals 40 years or older. Participants were randomly assigned to receive a daily combination of 2.5 mg of folic acid (vitamin B9), 50 mg of pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), and 1 mg of cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12), or placebo. After an average of 7.3 years of treatment and follow-up, the vitamin B group had a 34 percent lower risk of AMD. For visually significant AMD the risk dropped 41 percent. The researchers indicated that B vitamins may reduce high homocysteine levels which have been linked to AMD.
7. Egg Yolks
Studies show that egg yolks have the highest percentage levels of lutein and zeaxanthin.[v]Other sources containing both of these carotenoids are corn and honeydew melon, as well as dark leafy greens such as kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and romaine lettuce.
Foods highest in just lutein include kiwi, red seedless grapes, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, cucumber, spinach, peas, green peppers, butternut squash, celery, Brussels sprouts, scallions, and broccoli.
Other foods high in zeaxanthin include orange peppers, oranges, and mango.
[i] Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group, “A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8,” Archives of Ophthalmology, vol. 119, pp. 1417-1436, 2001.
[ii] The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group. Lutein + Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2013;309(19):2005-2015. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4997.
[iii] Benedetto Falsini et al, “Influence of saffron supplementation on retinal flicker sensitivity in early age-related macular degeneration.” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010;51(12):6118-24. Epub 2010 Aug 4. PMID: 20688744
[iv] M. Piccardi et al, “A Longitudinal Follow-Up Study of Saffron Supplementation in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Sustained Benefits to Central Retinal Function.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 429124, 9 pages https://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/429124
[v] O. Sommerburg, J. Keunen, A. Bird, and F. J G M van Kuijk. “Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes.” 1998 Aug; 82(8): 907-910.
The GMI Research Group (GMIRG) is dedicated to investigating the most important health and environmental issues of the day. Special emphasis will be placed on environmental health. Our focused and deep research will explore the many ways in which the present condition of the human body directly reflects the true state of the ambient environment.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
Three dietary components shown to promote dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are sugar (especially processed fructose), grains and trans fats
Research published in the October 2019 issue of Neurology found a strong link between trans fat consumption and incidence of dementia and its various subtypes, including Alzheimer’s disease
People in the highest quartile of trans fat levels were 74% more likely to develop dementia. Those in the second-highest quartile had a 52% higher risk
Diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89% increased risk for dementia while diets high in healthy fats are associated with a 44% reduced risk
Up to half of all Alzheimer’s cases could also be prevented by addressing other modifiable lifestyle contributors such as physical inactivity, depression, smoking, high blood pressure, midlife obesity and diabetes
As noted by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker,” your diet and other lifestyle factors have major implications for your Alzheimer’s risk.
Indeed, according to research1,2 published in the journal Lancet Neurology in 2011, up to half of all Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by addressing modifiable lifestyle contributors such as physical inactivity, depression, smoking, high blood pressure, midlife obesity and diabetes.
Three dietary components shown to promote this neurological degeneration are sugar (especially processed fructose), grains and trans fats. Research3,4 from the Mayo Clinic, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2012, found diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89% increased risk for dementia while diets high in healthy fats are associated with a 44% reduced risk.
As noted by the authors,5 “A dietary pattern with relatively high caloric intake from carbohydrates and low caloric intake from fat and proteins may increase the risk of MCI [mild cognitive impairment] or dementia in elderly persons.” Similarly, a 2013 study6 in the journal BioMed Research International reported that:
“Increasing epidemiological studies suggest that diet and nutrition might be important modifiable risk factors for AD [Alzheimer’s disease].
Dietary supplementation of antioxidants, B vitamins, polyphenols, and polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial to AD, and consumptions of fish, fruits, vegetables, coffee, and light-to-moderate alcohol reduce the risk of AD … Adherence to a healthy diet, the Japanese diet, and the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of AD.”
Trans Fat Consumption Increases Your Dementia Risk
Most recently, research7 published in the October 2019 issue of Neurology found a strong link between trans fat consumption and incidence of dementia and its various subtypes, which includes Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The study included 1,628 Japanese seniors aged 60 and older. None had dementia at the outset of the study, which went on for 10 years. Levels of elaidic acid — a biomarker for industrial trans fat — in the participants’ blood were measured using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.
Based on those levels, the hazard ratios for all-cause dementia, AD and vascular dementia were calculated using the Cox proportional hazards model. As reported by the authors:8
“Higher serum elaidic acid levels were significantly associated with greater risk of developing all-cause dementia and AD after adjustment for traditional risk factors. These associations remained significant after adjustment for dietary factors, including total energy intake and intakes of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”
This increase in risk was not slight. As reported by CNN,9 people in the highest quartile of elaidic acid levels were 74% more likely to develop dementia. Those in the second-highest quartile had a 52% higher risk. No association between trans fat and vascular dementia was found.
Of the various processed foods found to contribute to elevated elaidic acid levels, pastries were the biggest contributors, followed by margarine, candy, caramels, croissants, nondairy creamers, ice cream and rice cakes.10
Dr. Richard Isaacson, a neurologist and director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study, commented on the findings to CNN:11
“The study used blood marker levels of trans fats, rather than more traditionally used dietary questionnaires, which increases the scientific validity of the results. This study is important as it builds upon prior evidence that dietary intake of trans fats can increase risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.”
What Is Trans Fat?
As explained by CNN:12
“… artificial trans fats are created by an industrialized process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid (think of semi-soft margarine and shortening).
The food industry loves trans fats because they are cheap to produce, last a long time and give foods a great taste and texture. Besides fried foods, trans fats are found in coffee creamer, cakes, pie crusts, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, biscuits and dozens of other processed foods.”
Trans fats are different from an unsaturated fat by a single hydrogen molecule on the opposite side of a carbon bond.13 This one positional change is responsible for the difference in characteristics of the fat, and the increased danger to your health.
Aside from dementia, strong evidence also links trans fats with inflammation and the development of insulin resistance and heart disease (all of which also happen to be risk factors for Alzheimer’s).
Faced with overwhelming evidence of harm, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed partially hydrogenated oils (a primary source of trans fat) from the list of “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list of food ingredients in 2015, and as of June 18, 2019, food manufacturers are no longer allowed to use partially hydrogenated oils in foods14 due to their health risks.
Processed foods manufactured before this date, however, are allowed to remain on the market until January 1, 2021.15 (Compliance dates vary depending on whether manufacturers had “limited use” permissions for partially hydrogenated oils, but these are the final dates where all use must cease.)
However, that doesn’t mean that trans fats have been entirely eliminated and are of no further concern. What’s more, as long as a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, food manufacturers are allowed to label it as trans fat free.
The problem with this is that many experts agree there is no safe threshold below which trans fats are safe.16 To determine whether a product might still contain trans fats, carefully read the ingredients list.
Any item containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is bound to contain trans fat, even if the label says “0 Trans Fat.” Fried food and baked goods in general are also suspect.17,18 As lead study author Dr. Toshiharu Ninomiya, a professor at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, noted in a press release:19
“In the United States, the small amounts still allowed in foods can really add up if people eat multiple servings of these foods, and trans fats are still allowed in many other countries.”
Trans Fat Has Killed Millions
The rise of trans fat can be directly attributed to the wrongful vilification of saturated fats and cholesterol. We now have decades’ worth of data showing saturated fat and dietary cholesterol have no impact on heart disease and mortality. Meanwhile, studies have revealed the switch from saturated fat to trans fat-rich partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have led to the premature death of millions.
When New York severely limited the amount of trans fat allowed to be served at restaurants, it offered a unique opportunity for researchers to study20 the effects on residents and compare rates of heart attack and stroke before and after the restriction.
Three or more years after the restrictions were imposed on specific counties in New York City, researchers found a 6.2% reduction in heart attacks and stroke in those counties compared to areas of the city where the restrictions on trans fat were not imposed.
Considering trans fat has proliferated in the American diet since the late 1950s, the unnecessary death toll attributable to trans fat likely numbers in the millions each year, nationwide. Similar findings have been reported by Danish researchers. Denmark was the first country to act on research demonstrating the dangerous health effects of trans fat.
The study,21 published in 2016, found that in the three years after trans fats were regulated, which nearly eliminated it from the Danish food supply, the annual mean death toll from cardiovascular disease was reduced by an average of 14.2 deaths per 100,000 people per year.
We’ve Known Trans Fat Takes a Toll on Cognition for Years
One can only guess how many people have lost their minds thanks to trans fat over these past decades. The 2019 Neurology study certainly wasn’t the first to demonstrate a clear link between trans fat consumption and dementia risk.
For example, in a 2012 study,22 Dr. Gene Bowman, assistant professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University, reported a strong correlation between trans fat and cognitive performance.
People with high levels of trans fat in their blood performed significantly worse in cognitive testing and had reduced brain volume. Bowman commented on the results to HuffPost:23
“It’s clear that trans fats are bad — both for your heart and now, we see, for your brain. So I would recommend that people stay away from all trans fats.
If you aren’t sure whether something has them, just look at the ingredients … if there’s vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated anything … just put it down. That’s the big message here.”
Similarly, a 2015 study24 led by Dr. Beatrice Golomb found trans fat intake was linked to memory impairment in people under the age of 45. Each gram of trans fat consumed per day was linked to a 0.76 word decrease in word recall.
In the highest trans fat group, participants could recall on average 11 fewer words than those with the lowest trans fat intake, who had an average word recall of 86 words. The research, while unable to establish cause and effect, suggests trans fats may act as a pro-oxidant, contributing to oxidative stress that causes cellular damage.
Oxidized Omega-6 — Another Harmful Fat to Beware Of
It is clearly important to avoid trans fat, but as you will find out next year in an interview I am doing with Dr. Chris Knobbe about his Ancestral Health Symposium presentation, it is processed oils that are the primary culprit for nearly all Western diseases. Assiduously avoiding them is the key to staying healthy.
This is largely related to the oxidized omega-6 fat found in many processed foods, which may actually be even worse than trans fat. Now, omega-6 fat (linolenic acid) in and of itself is not the problem. Linoleic acid is also found in foods such as nuts, seeds and eggs, and is important for health.
The problem is oxidized omega-6 fat, and the fact that most people eat far too much of it. Intakes of omega 6 fat more than century ago were typically below 5 to 10 grams a day, and most of us now eat FAR more than that. For years, I’ve stressed the importance of balancing your omega-3 to omega-6 intake to protect your health.
Eating too much damaged omega-6 fat (found in abundance in processed vegetable oils) and too little marine-based omega-3 sets the stage not just for Alzheimer’s but also for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and depression — and that’s the short list.
It is very easy to overeat omega-6 fats. I recently switched from macadamia nuts to pecans, which are also low in carbs and protein, but I did not realize pecans are loaded with omega-6 fats, relative to macadamia nuts. I only discovered this by using the terrific nutrient tracker Cronometer.com. I have since realized that is not wise to eat more than a handful of nuts and not every day.
The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats ranges from 1-to-1 to 1-to-5, but the typical Western diet tends to be between 1-to-20 and 1-to-50. Most people, especially Americans, are guilty of this lopsided omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and to correct it, you typically need to do two things:
1.Significantly decrease intake of damaged omega-6 by avoiding processed foods and foods cooked in vegetable oil at high temperatures. A number of studies25,26 have found that people who regularly eat deep-fried foods have a significantly increased risk of stroke and death.
Common sources of harmful omega-6 to avoid include corn oil, canola oil, soy oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, margarine and shortening.
2.Increase your intake of animal-based omega-3 fats. Ideal sources include small fatty fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring, along with wild-caught Alaskan salmon, or a supplement such as krill oil.
Examples of Healthy Fats to Eat More Of
When it comes to dietary fats, remember this simple ground rule: Natural is best. The tips that follow can help ensure you’re eating the right fats for your health:
•Use organic butter (preferably made from organic grass fed raw milk) instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads — Butter is a healthy whole food that has received an unwarranted bad rap.
•Ghee is even better, as you remove the milk solids that many have problems with. Ghee is pure fat with no carbs and is what I personally use. The best way to make it is to place it in a glass container in a dehydrator and don’t heat it higher than 100 degrees F. to preserve the quality.
You can suck off the milk solids with a glass baster. Once you have the ghee you don’t even need to refrigerate it as it is stable at room temperature for many weeks.
•Use organic pastured pork lard for cooking and baking — A 2015 analysis27 of more than 1,000 raw foods ranked raw separated pork fat, also known as pork lard, as the eighth healthiest food on a list of 100.28 Valuable nutrients found in lard include:
◦Monounsaturated fats31 (the same fats found in avocados and olive oil32)
•Coconut oil is another excellent cooking oil that is loaded with health benefits.
•To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw nuts, raw dairy products and olive oil. Also increase your animal-based omega-3 fat intake by eating more sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring or wild-caught Alaskan salmon, or take a supplement such as krill oil.
Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce your modified fat intake, as it will teach you to focus on healthy whole foods instead of processed junk food. You can also learn more in my interview with Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food.”
In it, she delves deep into the pros and cons of various fats. The following chart was also created by her, which gives you a quick overview of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Eating Right Can Help Prevent Dementia
In closing, remember that, by and large, it is your everyday lifestyle choices that will determine whether your brain will maintain its function throughout your lifetime, or degenerate with age into a potentially deadly neurological disease like Alzheimer’s.
Eat real food, ideally organic — Avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they contain a number of ingredients harmful to your brain, including refined sugar, processed fructose, grains (particularly gluten), vegetable oils, trans fats, genetically engineered ingredients and pesticides.
Ideally, keep your added sugar to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you already have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders.
Opting for organic produce will help you avoid synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Most will also benefit from a gluten-free diet, as gluten makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream where they sensitize your immune system and promote inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
Replace refined carbs with healthy fats — It’s important to realize that your brain actually does not need carbs and sugars; healthy fats such as saturated animal fats and animal-based omega-3 are far more critical for optimal brain function.
A cyclical ketogenic diet has the double advantage of both improving your insulin sensitivity and lowering your Alzheimer’s risk. When your body burns fat as its primary fuel, ketones are created, which not only burn very efficiently and are a superior fuel for your brain, but also generate fewer reactive oxygen species and less free radical damage.
Pay close attention to the kinds of fats you eat — avoid all trans fats or hydrogenated fats that have been modified in such a way to extend their shelf life. This includes margarine, vegetable oils and various butter-like spreads. For examples of healthy fats to add to your diet, see the section above.
Time-restricted eating in a six- to eight-hour window — Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jump-start your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the insulin/leptin resistance that is a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer’s.
Keep your fasting insulin levels below 3 — If your insulin is high, you’re likely consuming too much sugar and need to cut back.
Optimize your omega-3 level — High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help prevent cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing its progression and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
Ideally, get an omega-3 index test done once a year to make sure you’re in a healthy range. Your omega-3 index should be above 8% and your omega 6-to-3 ratio between 1-to-1 to 5-to-1.
Optimize your vitamin D level — Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s and, indeed, research shows people living in northern latitudes have higher rates of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s than those living in sunnier areas, suggesting vitamin D and/or sun exposure are important factors.
If you are unable to get sufficient amounts of sun exposure, take daily supplemental vitamin D3 to reach and maintain a blood level of 60 to 80 ng/mL. That said, it’s important to recognize that sun exposure is important for reasons unrelated to vitamin D.
Your brain responds to the near-infrared light in sunlight in a process called photobiomodulation. Research shows near-infrared stimulation of the brain boosts cognition and reduces symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including more advanced stages of the disease.
Delivering near-infrared light to the compromised mitochondria synthesizes gene transcription factors that trigger cellular repair, and your brain is one of the most mitochondrial-dense organs in your body.
Optimize your magnesium levels — Preliminary research strongly suggests a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Keep in mind that the only magnesium supplement that appears to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier is magnesium threonate.
Vitamin B12 — According to a 2010 study published in the journal Neurology,35,36 people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. Very high doses of B vitamins have also been found to reduce memory loss by preventing brain shrinkage.37
Eat plenty of nitrate-rich foods — Beets and other nitrate-rich foods such as arugula provide powerful benefits for your brain and may be a powerful ally in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.38
Your body transforms plant-based nitrates into nitric oxide,39 which enhances oxygenation, has beneficial impacts on your circulatory and immune systems, and serves as a signaling or messenger molecule in every cell of your body.
The betanin in beets also helps prevent oxidation, particularly oxidation caused when the beta-amyloid is bound to copper, which may help prevent the misfolding and aggregation of amyloid beta.40
Previous research41 has also shown raw beet juice helps improve neuroplasticity, primarily by increasing blood flow and tissue oxygenation. Nitric oxide, in its capacity as a signaling molecule, allows your brain cells to communicate with each other better. Importantly, the beets boosted oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex, a brain area that is often affected in the early stages of dementia.
Optimize your gut flora — To do this, avoid processed foods, antibiotics and antibacterial products, fluoridated and chlorinated water, and be sure to eat traditionally fermented and cultured foods, along with a high-quality probiotic if needed.
Remember that eating factory farmed meats will provide you with traces of antibiotics in each bite. Factory farmed meats are also a suspected route of prions, which are yet another culprit in Alzheimer’s. You can learn more about this in “Study Claims Alzheimer’s Disease Is a Double-Prion Disorder.”
Novel Treatments Are Being Explored
Diagnostic guidance and core treatment strategies are detailed in my interview with Dr. Dale Bredesen, featured in “ReCODE: The Reversal of Cognitive Decline.” (You can also download Bredesen’s full-text case paper,42 which details his ReCODE treatment program.)
On a side note, two promising treatment alternatives for Alzheimer’s include photobiomodulation, discussed in “Healing the Body With Photobiomodulation,” and a novel treatment developed at MIT using flickering lights and low frequency sound to stimulate gamma frequencies in the brain,43 which appears to reduce plaque formation.44
MIT neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai discussed the experiments at a recent Society for Neuroscience meeting, saying the therapy appears to improve survival and health of neurons, improving neuronal connectivity and dilating blood vessels in the brain. His team is now investigating whether it might in fact slow Alzheimer’s disease in humans.45
Over the years, as more and more drug trials have failed to find an answer to Alzheimer’s, researchers are increasingly starting to realize that to be able to address this disease with any measure of success, we have to go back to basics.
There’s a wealth of data showing diet and lifestyle factors are where it’s at when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, and this puts the power right into your own hands. There’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk, and cleaning up your diet is the best place to start.
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2019
Traded along spice routes separating ancient cultures by vast distances, spices like cumin were once worth their weight in gold. Has modern science now revealed why, beyond their remarkable aesthetic value, they were so highly prized?
Many spices are perfectly happy living a charmed life as seasonings, peppering things generously with flavor, and without ever arousing the suspicion that they may be capable of profound acts of healing as well.
Meet cumin, a member of the parsley family, which is to say from a well-known family of healers native to the central Mediterranean region (southern Italy, Algeria and Tunisia).
Cumin’s traditional use stretches back into prehistory, as evidenced by its presence in Egyptian tombs. The Greeks actually used it much like we use pepper today, keeping cumin at the dining table in its own container, which is still practiced by Moroccans to this day. It is also been used for millennia in India as a traditional ingredient of curry.
An accumulating body of research now indicates that these ancient “culinary” uses, once considered primarily aesthetic in nature, may have served more fundamental medicinal roles in these cultures. Modern scientific investigation has revealed that cumin has a broad range of potential healing properties that, when properly applied, could profoundly alleviate human suffering by providing natural alternatives to often highly toxic pharmaceutical interventions.
For instance, research published in the journal Food Chemistry and Toxicology demonstrated that cumin has blood sugar lowering properties comparable to the drug glibenclamide (known in the US as glyburide), with the additional benefit (not conferred by pharmaceutical intervention) that it also lowered oxidative stress and inhibited the advanced glycated end products (AGE), which are implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic microvascular complications.[i]
Remarkably, this is only the tip of cumin’s medicinal potential. There are at least 10 other potential medicinal properties of cumin now confirmed in the experimental literature:
Bacterial Infections: Cumin oil has been shown effective at killing Klebsiella penumoniae bacteria, including decreasing biofilm formation (a defense mechanism of bacteria against antibiotics), as well as enhancing the antimicrobial activity of conventional antibiotic drugs like ciprofloxacin.[ii] Even more impressive, perhaps, cumin oil has been shown to have anti-MRSA properties.[iii]
Candida (Yeast) Infection: Unlike conventional antibiotics which contribute to opportunistic fungal overgrowth, cumin has been shown to have considerable inhibitory activity against 3 different Candida albicans strains of yeast.[iv] It has also been studied to be effective against a wide range of other fungi and yeasts, including Aspergilli and dermatophytes (fungi that cause skin diseases).[v]
Cataracts: Cumin has been shown to delay the formation of diabetes-associated cataracts primarily through its anti-glycating properties, i.e. it prevents elevated blood sugar from getting “sticky” (i.e. caramelization) and subsequently damaging tissues in the body.[vi]
Cancers: Cumin has been shown in preclinical research to have inhibitory activity against cervical cancer[vii] and colon cancer. [viii]
Dental Plaque: Cumin oil has been shown effective as an anti-gingival agent alternative to the chemical chlorhexidine commonly used in mouthwashes.[ix]
Diabetes: As mentioned in our opening, cumin has significant anti-diabetic properties. Another 2002 study found that the treatment of diabetic rats with cumin was more effective than the drug glibenclamide, resulting in reductions in inflammation, fatty changes, tissue cholesterol, triglycerides, free fatty acids, blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin – all positive indicators. [x]
Food-borne Pathogens – Cumin oil has been found to work synergistically with other food preservation agents to inhibit the growth of food-borne pathogens.[xi]
Immune Function: Cumin has been found to effectively stimulate immune function in a way that may benefit immune-compromised individuals.[xii]
Fertility (Reversible Contraceptive): Cumin has been found to have potent contraceptive activities in male rats without apparent toxicity.[xiii]
Memory Disorders: Cumin has been found to reduce stress-induced oxidative changes in the brain, as well as improving cognition, as determined by acquisition, retention and recovery in rats, in a dose-dependent manner.[xiv]
Morphine Dependence/Tolerance: Cumin reduces morphine tolerance and dependence. [xv][xvi]
Osteoporosis: Cumin extract has been shown effective at reversing bone loss associated with the loss of ovarian function at least as well as estradiol.[xvii]
Thrombosis (Clot): Cumin seed has been demonstrated to inhibit platelet aggregation, indicating it may prevent pathological blood clotting.[xviii] [Note: of course this means that it could interact adversely with blood thinners].
The so-called “evidence-based” approach of modern medical science to understanding cumin’s medicinal value is relatively new. Only in the past two decades, but especially in the past ten years, scientific research on spices and culinary herbshas virtually exploded. While enlightening, we must remember that the approach is limited in a number of ways. For one, it relies on animal research, which is both inherently cruel (vivisection) and conveys only approximate data, as these substances often have very different effects in animals than humans.
Also, spices like cumin should not be considered in isolation, as traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation contained a vast storehouse of medically relevant information pertaining to the synergies inherent in combinations of ingredients, modes of preparation, seasonal harvesting, etc. In other words, cumin does not lend itself well to the pharmacological, drug-based model of medicine, which presumes there are monochemical “magic bullets” within complex herbs or spices that must be identified and isolated into megadoses, and which are primarily responsible for their beneficial effects.
Nonetheless, it is welcoming that increasingly science confirms traditional herbalism and culinary practice. Perhaps, as the scientific evidence continues to pour in, we will be more willing to give ourselves permission to appreciate once again the wondrous superfluity of nature, its ceaseless benevolence, and the the fact that issuing directly from her fecund soil, are powerful healing gifts, that we can enjoy sensually, viscerally and now intellectually with greater abandon.