Polyunsaturated Fat Linked to Tumor Growth and Greater Cancer Risk

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If you’re a reader of this blog, and many others associated with ancient nourishing traditions, then you may already be aware that polyunsaturated fats might not be the best option for our health. Unfortunately, many people today buy the myth that these unnatural oils are healthier; however, the science shows this may not be completely true.

Over the past few years, we keep hearing that we need to decrease our saturated fat intake from butter, lard, coconut oil, etc., to reduce the risk of a number of diseases (namely cardiovascular disease, cancer). In this advice, nutrition “experts” tell us to increase our use of cheap, rancid vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower and safflower and canola oil. Eeek.

So-Called “Healthy” Oils Increase Cancer Risk

All of these so-called “healthy” oils like soybean and canola are known as unsaturated fats, and are liquid at room temperature. They are more prone to oxidation when exposed to heat, making it one reason to never cook with them. Also, they are considered “polyunsaturated” fats, and because they are unsaturated and plant “based”, they are considered healthier. Well, not so much.

A study from San Francisco VA Medical Center found that high intakes of omega-6 fats, which are mainly found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn and safflower, contribute to prostate tumor growth more so than any other type of fat. It is true that canola contains a high amount of protective omega-3 fats, but these beneficial fats are damaged when exposed to high heat.

Immune Function

Long chained polyunsaturated oils may also have a negative impact on the immune system, compared to natural saturated fats like butter or coconut oil. This is probably due to the weird distortion of the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. If there is one thing we need to decrease our risk of developing certain types of cancer, it’s a healthy immune system.

Also, since polyunsaturated oils are more prone to oxidation during cooking, compared to monounsaturated and saturated fats, it can wreak havoc on the body by introducing a number of free radicals. When combined with an unhealthy diet very low in antioxidants, this can become serious later down the road.

Intake of Polyunsaturated Oils

Anyone who consumes processed foods, especially non-organic processed foods, are often exposed to large amounts of these not-so-healthy fats. Canola oil and soybean oil are common examples of fats used in traditional (and even organic) processed foods, and are also sometimes hydrogenated to mimic saturated fat (which introduces trans-fats).

Here is a quick list of polyunsaturated vegetable oils you should be aware of:

  • Safflower
  • Grapeseed
  • Sunflower
  • Walnut
  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Cottonseed
This list starts with the oil that contains the highest amount of polyunsaturates, the last containing the least (the list is by no means exhaustive). Although the body does require a small amount of polyunsaturated fat every day, it doesn’t need to be supplied in large amounts from oils.
Personally, the only oil I use for cooking is organic coconut oil. Since it is a saturated fat, it is more stable at high temperatures and does not oxidize easily during cooking. For the same reason, organic butter also finds its way into my recipes. I use pure olive oil in its raw form only on salads or in raw food recipes for a healthy (but moderate) intake of monounsaturated fat.
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3 Responses to “Polyunsaturated Fat Linked to Tumor Growth and Greater Cancer Risk”
  1. Ashley @ Taste for Healthy 18 January 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Excellent article! After reading “Nourishing Traditions” and “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill,” I have changed my views on what I previously believed to be ‘healthy’ fats.

  2. Skratazoid 29 July 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Thanks for the info. Wanted to let you know that your list of oils, ordered by the highest to lowest amount of polyunsaturates, is missing canola.

    You mentioned canola has more of the protective omega-3, but that high heat damages it. I know cake is not typically healthy…but do you think canola oil is ok with something like that, or is that too high heat? Just thinking about those situations, where you’re doing the name brand box cake that calls for eggs and oil, and wondering what oil should be used. Thanks!

    • admin 31 July 2015 at 10:34 am #

      Hi Lisa! Thanks for the comment about the canola oil, I’ll add that to the post. I personally would not use canola oil at all, even if it is high in omega-3s, simply because the majority of the rapeseed plant is heavily GMO and sprayed with pesticides. The pesticides are more of a concern right now, since the science is conclusive on their health effects. If anything, I would try to find organic canola, or, better yet, use coconut oil (first choice), grapeseed oil, or a bland-tasting olive oil (not extra virgin). I hope this helps! :)

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