Scientists: Vegetable oils cause headaches, fatigue, and even dementia
02/07/2017 // Vicki Batts // Views

For years, we have been urged to leave butter behind, and instead turn to vegetable oils for our cooking needs. In mid-20th century America, saturated fats became burdened with the blame for rising rates of heart attacks, heart disease, and other conditions. But, some scientists believe that was a mistake.

Take for example, Dr. Catherine Shanahan, author of the new book, "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food." Shanahan, a family doctor out of Denver with a degree in biochemistry and genetics, has never followed conventional wisdom when it comes to nutrition.

Unlike other doctors and dietitians who recommend diets centered on vegetables and fruits (and plant-based fats), Shanahan suggests diets that focus on animal proteins and fats, as well as vegetables and nuts. [RELATED: Learn more about healthy eating and nutrition at]

Shanahan has even counseled basketball star Kobe Bryant, and eventually became the director of the Lakers' nutrition program. She says that her next mission is to convince America to stop using vegetable oils, or as she calls them, "your brain's worst enemy."

Vegetable oils are not as healthy as you may think

Dr. Shananan notes that plant fats like real olive oil, coconut oil, avocado or peanut oils, are not the ones that are problematic. According to her, the real dangers lie in items like canola, palm, corn, soy, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, and rice bran oils. Understanding how these oils came to be commonly used is a key part of understanding why they aren't healthy, Shanahan told the New York Post.


“In the 1950s, we were told we couldn’t have saturated fats. We stopped eating butter and natural fats, but still craved fatty foods, so we turned to vegetable oil[s]. And then restaurants started using them because they’re dirt cheap," she explains.

While it was initially purported that these unsaturated fats were better and healthier, recent research has shown that might not actually be true. Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist, explains in an article that the outcome of switching from animal fats to vegetable fats has been disastrous; heart disease, cancer, and diabetes rates have skyrocketed around the globe. He too believes that what we choose to cook with has a huge impact on health.

Studies now show that when vegetable oils are heated to high temperatures, they begin to release harmful compounds. Sunflower oil, corn oil, and other popular vegetable oils are unstable at high temperatures, and break down into toxic adelhyde, which has been linked to increasing the risk of cancer and other health conditions.

One recent study even found that cooking vegetable oil for just 20 minutes caused it to release 20 times the amount of adelhyde that is deemed to be the safe maximum limit by the World Health Organization. (RELATED: Read to learn more about toxic food ingredients.)

Other reports have shown that heating vegetable oils like palm oil at 400°F or higher also caused the oils to begin releasing gerotoxins and other harmful compounds.

Researchers have also re-analyzed a 1970s heart study that indicated consuming vegetable oils instead of animal fats could lower the risk of heart disease and death. The new analysis revealed that the initial findings were incorrect. It was even revealed that taking in too much vegetable oil raised the risk of heart disease. It's possible these ill effects stem from what happens to vegetable oils when they are heated up. [RELATED: Keep up with the latest research at]

Toxic oils may harm your brain

Shanahan believes that the way the oils are treated before they're ready to hit supermarket shelves plays a big role in their toxicity. She notes that the way these oils are processed strips them of whatever antioxidants they may have. This "tips the balance" of antioxidants and free radicals within the oil. Free radicals have been shown to promote disease.

One of Dr. Shanahan's primary concerns is the effect that vegetable oils have on the brain. She believes that the free radicals in these oils can contribute to oxidative stress on the brain. According to her, regular vegetable oil consumption can cause lethargy and concentration problems, which may one day contribute to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Shanahan says the number one symptom of taking in too much vegetable oil is migraines, along with general brain fog and fatigue.


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