The government just can’t seem to stop telling us what foods are good for us and which are bad. They did it again last week. The FDA gave their approval for companies to market soybean oil as a heart healthy ingredient.
This doesn’t just mean that soybean oil can be marketed as heart healthy. The approval allows food providers to,
make heart health claims when food and menu items include at least 5.0 grams of soybean oil per serving and also meet applicable criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content.
This means that products that include soybean oil as an ingredient (including bottled oil, salad dressings, dips, snacks, and baked goods) can be labeled as heart healthy as long as they meet the FDA’s criteria for the other ingredients mentioned.
This certainly is a big step for the FDA considering that numerous health and wellness sites, scientists, and healthcare professionals have been warning of the dangers of soybean for years.
Nonetheless, the FDA, in their wisdom and desire to help the American population make better health choices, has deemed that soybean oil and select products made from it are healthy foods.
Has the FDA done us a great service by alerting us to the health benefits of soybean oil or have they put their seal of approval on a potentially unhealthy, dangerous seed oil?
Let’s first take a look at why the FDA believes soybean oil is a healthy food.
Remember The Coconut Oil Controversy?
A few months back, the American Heart Association (AHA) published an advisory that warned of the possible increased heart disease risk associated with the consumption of coconut oil. See my post here.
Here’s how they came to that conclusion.
Coconut oil contains high amounts of saturated fatty acids (SFA).
SFAs increase the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your bloodstream
Increased levels of LDL have been associated with an increase in heart disease.
Therefore, coconut oil is a dangerous food to consume.
The AHA Came To A Bad Conclusion
The AHA has waged a fifty-year war against saturated fat and that war seems to have caused some bias in the AHA’s conclusions.
The studies they used to show the dangers of SFAs have been shown to be highly suspect while at the same time they ignored many recent studies that have revealed that SFAs have no association with an increase in heart disease. See my post here.
This AHA report on coconut oil was important because one of the AHA’s recommendations was to replace SFAs with healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Practically, that would mean increasing your consumption of soybean oil since it’s the most commonly used PUFA in the U.S.
The AHA’s argument for the use of soybean oil is twofold.
First, it’s not a SFA. Secondly, there is evidence that it lowers your LDL. Since high levels of LDL have been associated with heart disease, lowering it is a good thing for your heart.
Also, would it surprise you to know that one soybean producer is a major donor to the AHA?
The FDA Picks Up Where The AHA Left Off
Since the AHA recommended soybean oil as a healthy oil, it didn’t take long for a soybean manufacturer to ask the AHA for its approval.
Bunge Limited, one of the biggest soybean oil producers in the country, petitioned the FDA for a qualified health claim linking consumption of soybean oil to reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
The FDA decided to grant Bunge’s petition, and thus made Bunge and other American soybean growers very happy.
But is the FDA’s decision to allow food manufacturers to label food with soybean oil a healthy food a blessing or a curse to the American consumer?
The important question, despite what the AHA and FDA says, is whether soybean oil is a healthy food?
Not All Soybean Oils Are The Same
Industrial seed oils are a relatively new food in the history of human diets. Soybean oil was a rather late addition being initially developed in response to the attack on SFAs that started in the 1950s.
Today, there are several different types of soybean oil to be aware of.
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil
In order to extract oil from the soybean, it’s necessary to use a chemical called hexane. Hexanes are a known neurotoxin and are also used in glue manufacturing, roofing materials, leather products, degreasing products, and textile manufacturing.
Here’s a good question. Do you think some of those neurotoxic hexanes show up in soybean products?
In 2009, a report was released indicating that hexanes were found in soy flakes contained in energy bars and veggie burgers.
Here’s the problem. While we know that hexanes are neurotoxic, no one knows exactly what a safe level of hexane ingestion is in humans. As to my knowledge, to date, the FDA has refused to place a safe limit on the number of hexanes contained in most food products.
It’s just my opinion, but it seems that hexanes aren’t something you would want in your diet.
Here is a video showing how canola oil is manufactured. The process is similar for soybean oil.
Partial Hydrogenation And Trans Fats
Once hexanes are used to extract oil from the soybean, the oil is either hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
This makes the oil stable (avoid rancidity) and readily usable.
Partial hydrogenation, however, has an enormous downside. It causes trans fatty acids (TFA) to be produced.
TFAs have been found to increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and lower your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. This is not a good idea if you want a healthy heart.
The FDA has directed all food manufacturers to remove TFAs from their products by 2018. However, in 2015, the FDA made this final statement on partially hydrogenated vegetable oils,
Even if a food claims on its packaging to have “0 grams trans fat,” it’s a good idea to look at the ingredients list on the label, says Honigfort. Under current regulations, companies can make that claim if the food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if there is partially hydrogenated oil listed among the ingredients, the product will contain a small amount of trans fat. Selecting foods with even small amounts of trans fat can add up to a significant intake.
Partially hydrogenated oils have TFAs. And the continued consumption of TFAs is extremely dangerous to your health.
This could eventually pose a thorny problem for the soybean industry so they engineered a way to deal with it.
They were able to genetically modify (GMO) a soybean that contained fewer TFAs.
Soybean Oil Made From Genetically Modified Beans
Soybeans are the second largest crop in the U.S. (corn is the first). According to the USDA, 90% of the soybeans produced are GMOs.
The makers (Monsanto) of GMO soybeans have claimed to accomplish two things.
GMO Soybean Contains Zero TFAs
Supposedly, GMO soybeans contain zero TFAs. Whether that means actually zero TFAs or just a lesser amount than allowable I don’t know.
But if the GMO soybean oil contains less or zero TFAs, it should be healthier right? Well, not so fast.
In 2015, scientists at the University of California, Riverside and UC Davis, after completing a study on GMO soybean oil, made this statement,
The GM soybean oil has 0 grams trans fat and more of the monounsaturated fats that are considered heart healthy, But it had not been tested for long term metabolic effects until our current study.
This is what their study found,
GM soybean oil is just as unhealthy as regular soybean oil in that it also induces obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver. GM soybean oil does, however, have one advantage: it does not cause insulin resistance — the inability to efficiently use the hormone insulin.
One caveat here is that this was a mice study, not a human study. Incidentally, the mice fed soybean oil did much worse than the mice fed coconut oil.
PUFAs And Obesity
The fact that polyunsaturated fats are implicated in causing obesity has been well documented. PUFAs contain a large amount of linoleic acid, and this compound appears to have an affinity for depositing itself in adipose tissue.
Researcher Dr. Stephan Guyenet has an excellent graph here showing the correlation between the increase of linoleic acid in fat tissue with obesity over a 50 year period. The correlation is astounding.
GMO Soybeans Are Resistant To Glyphosate
An added feature of GMO soybeans is that they are resistant to damage done by the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup). Theoretically, glyphosate will kill weeds around the soy plant but not damage the plant itself.
Here’s another good question. Do you suppose that it’s possible for glyphosate to be found on the soy plant after harvest? If you said yes, you’d be right.
GMO soybeans have been found to contain high residue of glyphosate. See here.
While Monsanto has said that this residue is harmless to humans, be aware that glyphosate has been scientifically linked to numerous diseases.
Some of these include autism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhea, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS. Dr. Mercola has an excellent article on glyphosate here.
If you would rather watch a video, see the one below.
By now you should be getting the feeling that soybean oil may not be especially healthy for you. But we’re not quite finished.
Organic Soybean Oil
About 1% of all soybeans are grown organically. This means there are no chemicals used to extract the oil, and the soybeans are not GMO.
While these are good traits, it does mean that this soybean oil will now be a rather expensive oil. A comparison of the cost between organic soybean oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) illustrates this.
A half liter bottle of Healthy Harvest Non-GMO Gourmet Soybean Cooking Oil costs about $10.50 on Amazon, not including shipping.
A similar sized bottle of California Ranch EVOO (not the worst EVOO you can choose) costs about $8 at Walmart.
This is simply a no brainer. EVOO is a healthier and tastier oil than soybean oil. See my post on EVOO here.
Nonetheless, soybean oil, regardless of how it’s produced, is an unhealthy food, and here’s why.
Shutting The Door On Soybean Oil
If you’re trying to make healthier food choices, there are three more reasons that make soybean oil a poor choice.
Soybean Oil Contains Omega-3 And Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Soybean oil has been reported to be a good source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Thes fatty acids are known as essential fatty acids. That means that though your body requires them, your body itself cannot produce them. You must get them from your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are recognized as promoting healthy cells and providing beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies also have shown they help in reducing the risk of heart disease. See here, here and here.
Omega-6 fatty acids are important for maintaining cell wall integrity and providing energy for the heart. However, when your Omega-6 level is elevated, it becomes pro-inflammatory.
Excess omega-6s have been associated with chronic inflammatory diseases such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, CVD, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. See here and here.
Further, it’s important to realize that Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids exist in a ratio. That ratio is extremely important for your health. Does soybean oil contain a good ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid?
The Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio
One reason suggested for this is the increased consumption of PUFA oils in Western diets. Before 1900, PUFAs were unheard of.
A high Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio does have health consequences. For example, a ratio of 4:1 is associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality, 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. See here.
If you want to keep your O6:O3 ratio in a healthy range, soybean oil may not be the way to do it.
Soybean Oil Is Pro-inflammatory
Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are used to produce substances in your body called eicosanoids. They play an important role in cell messaging as well as inflammation, allergy, fever, and other immune responses.
In general, eicosanoids produced from Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory while eicosanoids produced from Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory.
While inflammation is part of your body’s normal response to infection and injury, prolonged or excessive inflammation can result in serious chronic or acute diseases.
Therefore, in order for inflammation not to become excessive, a proper balance of Omega-6:Omega-3 is necessary.
This means that if your Omega-6s go up, then your Omega-3 has to go up as well. And if your Omega-6s go down, you’ll need less Omega-3s.
So, ideally, you want to make sure your omega-6s are low in order to reduce the possibility of inflammation.
Consuming soybean oil is not going to help you do that.
Deep Frying With Soybean Oil Can Be Harmful
Soybean oil when heated to an extreme temperature will begin to degrade chemically and then oxidize.
Oxidation is a major problem because it results in the creation of free radicals and toxic oxygenated aldehydes. Those sound bad right? Well, they are.
These products are cytotoxic and genotoxic in the body. They are considered as markers of oxidative stress in cells as well as being causal agents of degenerative illnesses. See here.
Never deep fry with soybean oil. If you’re going to use it to cook with, never let it smoke. The fumes are toxic as well.
If you have to deep fry, Avocado Oil is your best choice. It may be a little more expensive, but it has a very high smoke point. See my post on healthy cooking fats here.
Okay, that’s it for today. Don’t let the FDA fool you. I urge you to reconsider using soybean oil. There are several better choices.
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