We have been bombarded recently with scares about the food we eat, how it is grown and produced. Now, there are fears that the way we cook can also be life-threatening. According to world experts, food fried in vegetable oils releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.
Leading scientists from Oxford and De Montfort Universities have tested a range of oils from vegetable oils to lard and found that heating up oils made from corn and sunflowers release worrying levels of chemicals called aldehydes, which have been linked to illnesses including cancer, heart disease, dementia, and even dyslexia.
In contrast, they found that cooking in butter, olive oil and lard produced much lower levels of aldehydes. Coconut oil produced the lowest levels of the harmful chemicals. A meal of fish and chips fried in vegetable oil had levels of aldehydes over 100-200 times higher than the World Health Organisation suggested was healthy.
And not only that. Professor John Stein, Oxford’s emeritus professor of neuroscience said that his research showed that partly as a result of corn and sunflower oils, the fatty acids – omega 6 – in these oils is affecting the way our brains retain the good fatty acids – omega 3. He has now banished these oils from his own kitchen at home and is sticking to butter or coconut oil only.
He said, “the human brain is changing in a way that is as serious as climate change threatens to be. If you eat too much corn oil or sunflower oil, the brain is absorbing too much omega 6, and that effectively forces out omega 3.”
“I believe the lack of omega 3 is a powerful contributory factor to such problems as increasing mental health issues and other problems such as dyslexia.”
And Prof Grootveld, a professor of bioanalytical chemistry and chemical pathology at De Montfort University in Leicester, agrees. After carrying out a number of experiments, he said: “For decades, the authorities have been warning us how bad butter and lard was. But we have found butter (olive and lard) is very, very good for frying purposes and so is lard.
“People have been telling us how healthy polyunsaturates are in corn oil and sunflower oil. But when you start messing around with them, subjecting them to high amounts of energy in the frying pan or the oven, they undergo a complex series of chemical reactions which results in the accumulation of large amounts of toxic compounds.”
Health concerns linked to the toxic by-products also include heart disease; cancer; “malformations” during pregnancy; inflammation; risk of ulcers and a rise in blood pressure.
Prof Grootveld said the oils when “completely pure [and] authentic … offer no threats to human health” but that “LOPs arising from the frequent and common use of polyunsaturated fats” for frying, “certainly do so”.
Traditionally, the NHS has warned that cooking with butter and lard is unhealthy. It has always advised us to;
“Try to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat and have smaller amounts of foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead. For a healthy choice, use just a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee, ”
We wonder whether that advice will now be revised.