We are pretty much all aware that excess sugar is not good for us, the chain of evidence is clear that chronic sugar intake will lead to insulin resistance – the disorder that leads to pre diabetes and diabetes along with many other metabolic disorders.
What if I were to tell you that the root cause of all of this inflammation could very possibly be the excess intake of PUFA’s or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
I’m guessing that you would say I was a bit mad! So let’s look at the evidence:
- The same paradigm that told us high cholesterol from eating saturated fat was what caused heart disease is the same paradigm at work here
- 100 years ago people didn’t need to go super low carb to get rid of insulin sensitivity – so what’s changed?
- PUFA’s in such large quantities are a relatively new phenomenon
- By their nature (read on for explanation!) they are unstable oils
- Not only are they themselves highly processed, they are found in virtually all processed foods.
I’m not saying we don’t need some polyunsaturated fats, omega 3’s and 6’s are needed for dealing with inflammation in the body, from your stress response to very obvious joint inflammation like arthritis, hence why fish oil is ‘good’ for you, but here’s the kicker – when you get the ratio wrong ( our best evidence suggests that we used to have a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6) we are actually causing inflammation and cellular damage.
The ratios we find today are typical 1:16 of omega 3 to omega 6. Omega 6 is pro inflammatory and the even worse news is that if we don’t use it as energy then it’s stored as toxic fat, so when we try and use it for energy ie. in the cells, we are actually shutting down our mitochondria – the power house of our cells where calories are burnt. The mitochondria have an off switch that is activated in the presence of these PUFA’s. This is a vicious circle as far as insulin resistance is concerned because if your body isn’t making energy from fat, where is it looking for energy? From carbs or (to break it down even further) glucose and so you crave high carb, sugary foods which means you need even more insulin, to remove the excess sugar from your blood stream, creating the need for even more insulin and so on.
PUFA’s are unstable. Not to get too ‘sciencey’ but the clue is in the name – saturated fat’s have no space on the carbon chain, which makes them stable. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have gaps which means they have room for other molecules to bond with them = oxidisation.
This makes it easy to spot the difference between saturated and polyunsaturated fats, basically if a fat is hard at room temp it’s saturated, if it’s liquid (because they are unstable) at room temperature it’s polyunsaturated. The exception here would be olive oil which can be both liquid and semi hard (think of it in the fridge) as it is monounsaturated and thus falls in-between.
Consider that our cell membranes are saturated fat, our bodies know what to do with these fats and when you are metabolically flexible and eat these your body will use them for energy and store what ever is left (in the presence of low to no carb this won’t be much) for use when needed. Insulin is not required, you don’t crave those sugary high carb snacks and if your body does need fuel it efficiently takes it from fat reserves. These ‘clean’ fat reserves have not built up the toxins of polyunsaturated fats and so your cells are getting the energy they need and are satisfied and so are you! No need to be hangry!
It has been speculated that due to what I have described above, if you are the type of person who needs to eat, you get a bit shaky, maybe even light headed and definitely hangry that this hypoglycaemia is the first sign of insulin resistance and prediabetes.
It is also worth bearing in mind from an ancestral perspective that these oils are highly refined – there is nothing natural about taking a seed from a flower (rapeseed or canola seed oil being the most obvious) and making oil from it! Mass production of seed oils must go through extensive processing that involves cleaning, heating, pressing and for good measure solvent extraction. It takes 1 tonne of seeds to make about 300 litres of oil.
This is what I do as a health coach:
- avoid any oil that’s liquid at room temperature except olive oil. The list is long, but includes soy, canola or rapeseed, sunflower, safflower, peanut oil, flax and corn oil.
- if they are in the cupboard (although they definitely are not in mine) never cook with these oils, they are unstable and oxidised anyway, by cooking with them you will only make this worse and more damaging to your body. I only cook with coconut oil or ghee and if it’s at a low temp I will use butter or olive oil.
Bear in mind that removal of these oils from our diets is no quick fix, this is cellular detoxification it can take 70 days for this poison to leave your system and it has been speculated that people experiencing ‘Keto flu’ could in fact be suffering from the release of these stored oils poisoning their systems.
In my opinion there is no more fundamental way to shift your health than to remove these processed oils from your diet, not only are you removing a toxin that is causing inflammation, the down stream effects of which are to stop hunger (when replaced with moderate amounts of saturated fat) and thus break the insulin resistance cycle.
I am not a medical doctor and the information I have shared here is opinion. Always seek medical advice before making radical changes.
I strongly recommend checking out the work of Cate Shanahan MD who is a doctor and has written two fantastic books about diet, the second one being all about this called ‘the Fatburn Fix’.