Some ‘Healthy’ Vegetable Oils May Actually Increase Risk of Heart Disease

A study making headlines in Canada today serves as reminder that not all vegetable oils are created equal.

The study, an analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says some oils that claim to be good for the heart may, in fact, be harmful. The authors cite, among other sources, a study published in February that found subjects who replaced saturated fat sources with safflower oil or margarine had increased rates of death from cardiovascular and coronary artery disease.

Safflower oil and margarine, and corn oil are rich in omega-6 acids, but contain almost no omega-3 fatty acids, the nutrient research has linked to cutting the risk of heart disease.

The goal of the report is to push the Canadian government to change food labelling laws, but the data get at the complexity of healthy eating for all.

“We’ve known that omega-6 fats are not necessarily beneficial for heart health for a long time and the study states that bluntly,” says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California and Runner’s World columnist.

Fats influence the body’s ability to control inflammation, she says. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, whereas omega-6 fats can promote inflammation. While not all inflammation is bad, she says, it can exacerbate problems inside an already clogged artery.

Applegate’s advice for healthy diet: when taste matters, use extra virgin olive oil, choose canola oil over corn or safflower for baking, and if you can find it, reach for avocado oil for sautéing.

And to increase your intake of heart-healthy omega-3s, add walnuts and salmon to your weekly menu, too.

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