Toxic Oil by David Gillespie – my take on the book by Professor Dr Shirley Mcilvenny

Well for a start there’s a bit of scaremongering. It starts with ‘vegetable oil makes you exceedingly vulnerable to cancer’ a statement that’s bound to frighten most of the population.

He does a good job of summarising the awful history of how fat became a dirty word in our diet -from Ancel Keys and his biased research to the present day- pointing out that saturated fat has finally been vindicated as a cause of heart disease.

The bottom line is that vegetable oils from canola, sunflower oil and soybean are highly processed and sold as cooking oils, margarine and salad dressings. They are also used to make baked goods and fast food like fries and chips. The use of these oils was partly based on their cheaper price but also government encouragement to switch from animal fats like lard, to vegetable or seed oils which are high in polyunsaturates.

Polyunsaturated fats are particularly vulnerable to oxidation and combined with sugar and a lack of anti-oxidants set the scene for chronic inflammation and eventually cancer. Research also shows that PUFAs also increase macular degeneration, a deterioration in eyesight as we age.

There is a great description of what happens to seed oils to extract cooking oil – it’s an eye-opener which will make you think twice about buying these industrial processed oils.

From a health perspective, cold pressed virgin flaxseed oil comes out as a good source of Omega 3 and coconut oil as a good oil to cook with.

The take-home message is to avoid processed vegetable cooking oils and foods made from them such as take-away fried foods, commercial chips, dips and dressings. Making your own mayonnaise, salad dressings and humus avoids these oils as well as giving the food a superior flavour.

Overall this book aligns with much of what we teach at the Food Coach Institute about oils. However he focuses on what types of processed foods people can choose as substitutes including bread and breakfast cereals. A  balanced healthy diet, apart from removing sugar and fructose, is not really expanded on – fresh vegetables hardly get a mention.

So it’s an interesting read about the processed oil industry but not really a reference about a healthy diet.

Prof Dr Shirley Mcilvenny, MD, MBBCh, FRCGP(UK), FRACGP

Director of the Food Coach Institute