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Speaker Q&A


How Did We Get Here? The History Of Vegetable Oils

Nina Teicholz, M.Phil.

1. Question:

Hi Nina, to what extent has the dominance of vegetable oils been driven by the food industry vs. public health?


I think it’s impossible to quantify the influence of official institutions (American Heart Association, US Dietary Guidelines) vs. food industries, since industry has always worked to influence our public health institutions. However, it’s no doubt true that the AHA and US Guidelines have been more influential with the public.


2. Question:

Do you have a feel for whether the vegetable oils issue is gaining much awareness among consumers?


I have not seen any polling on that. McDonald’s went back to using butter for its McMuffins, and over the past 5 years or so, there’s been a big resurgence in the use of butter over margarine, so those are some signs that the public is returning to natural fats.

3. Question:

Some consumers are showing concerns about ultra-processed foods. To what extent does that overlap with concern about vegetable oils, and does one feed into the other? Thank you.


Nearly all “ultra-processed” foods, if they contain fat, are using vegetable oils of some kind. Think about cookies, crackers, chips, candies, chocolates, frozen meals, salad dressings, ketchups, etc. So yes, there is a great deal of overlap there.


4. Question:

You stated that 1/3 of the AHA's funding comes from the Soybean Association? Can you please repeat the stat. I missed the name of the funding source. Thank you.



Numbers are cited in this article. I got them from the AHA and ACC websites directly. I’m afraid I don’t have the links handy right now, but some sleuthing on those websites would hopefully turn those up.


5. Question:

You mentioned that once people cut seed oils out of their diet they can become very sensitive to them if they eat them again. What common symptoms have you heard of that show up?



Mainly I’ve heard about people feeling aches/pains/inflammation in their joints.


6. Question:

Is the process of hydrogenation itself bad/unhealthy or is it the combination of all the additional ingredients and steps needed that makes it unhealthy?



It is the creation of trans fatty acids (along with other novel fatty acids) that is the principal problem, and this happens via the hydrogenation process.

7. Question:

Do you think all the information about palm oil and deforestation is driven by seed oil?



I have a friend who wrote a book on the topic of palm, and she was principally concerned about deforestation. One never knows about the oil companies, but they depend heavily on palm oil for their own products — with palm, oils are greasy, go rancid easily, etc., because they don’t contain enough saturates — so I would be surprised if oil companies turned on a product upon which they depend. Many of these companies are diversified into palm, actually. 

8. Question:

What's your opinion about the fats found in artisan cheese?



Artisan cheeses are not adulterated in any way, so they will definitely have the most natural mix of fats.



9. Question:

What are your thoughts on cooking veggies with olive oil and a low temperature? I roast most of my vegetables with olive oil at 350°F



Olive oil is the only safe oil to use in cooking, but even so, saturated fats are safer, because the latter do not oxidize at all. Olive oil will lead to some oxidation. Also, there’s the problem that olive oil is rarely a pure product. As we’ve learned from many investigations, anything but the highest quality olive oil is usually adulterated with nut oils and these oxidize more.


10. Question:

Any restaurant chains you know of that are taking a no seed oil pledge? Is that something we can see? We would gladly pay the difference in costs. I think many restaurant goers would.



This website tracks US restaurants cooking in natural fats. FYI, there are not a lot, and no major chains.

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The views, opinions, and responses of the Future of Fat speakers are their own and do not reflect the opinions of Zero Acre Farms, The Future of Fat Summit, or any organization or company involved. 

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