Are industrial oils and fats good or bad for you?

We get a lot of questions regarding what are the best sources of fats and oils in Singapore. After all there is so much confusion in Singapore surrounding this topic with different opinions being dished out by the media, government, medical industry and health practitioners. In this article we are going to concisely define what industrial fats and oils are, how they are produced, the dangers of consuming them and most importantly, we'll share the best sources of oils and fat to help your body thrive. Read on to learn more.


Thanks to the good folks at The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) for most of the research and text behind this article. The WAPF is an international charity that promotes health through the consumption of high quality real food.

What industrial oils and fats are and how are they made

Medical associations have promoted vegetable oils as healthy but how healthy are these oils really?
Medical associations have promoted vegetable oils as healthy, but are they really?

Industrial fats and oils, also known as vegetable oils, came into the market after the invention of the stainless steel roller press in the 1890s. This allowed manufacturers to obtain oil from hard seeds. Before that the only plant-based oils came from foods like olives and coconuts which used a slow-moving stone press and had a naturally occurring high fat content that was easily extractable. 


The first hard seeds that the manufacturers used to make vegetable oils out of were cottonseed – a rubbish crop of the cotton industry. They marketed the notion that cottonseed oils were safer and healthier as compared to other traditional sources of fats and oils. Soon enough, other manufacturers discovered the art of extracting oils from corn, soybeans, safflower and other seeds. Fast forward to today, we now know that almost all vegetable oils come from soybeans. These soybean vegetable oils, and other industrial oils and fats, have become the basic ingredient in margarine, spreads, cookies, chips, salad dressings, pretzels, commercial fried foods and all fast food. 


The manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of industrial vegetable oils - complete with hexane, pesticides, solvents, chemicals, industrial antioxidants, nickel, bleach, synthetic vitamins and artificial flavours
The manufacturing process of industrial vegetable oils - complete with hexane, pesticides, solvents, chemicals, industrial antioxidants, nickel, bleach, synthetic vitamins and artificial flavours

Your next question probably is “since, they are being used in basically everything nowadays surely they cannot be that bad right?” Unfortunately they are wrong and here’s exactly why…

The truth behind industrial oils

Industrial polyunsaturated vegetable oils cause rampant unwanted reactions in the body. Here are a just a few:

Cancer Polyunsaturated liquid vegetable oils are extremely fragile. They quickly become rotten and break down into substances called free radicals and aldehydes. These substances are exceedingly carcinogenic especially around other carcinogens like the pesticides that were used during the manufacturing process. 
Heart disease Although liquid vegetable oils may reduce cholesterol levels in the short run they cause heart disease in other ways. For example, rotten oil molecules often initiate damage in the arteries that can consequently, lead to plaque build up.  Furthermore, they boost uric acid levels in the blood, an acid known for being linked to heart disease.
Premature aging Highly reactive vegetable oils can result in damage all throughout the body which ultimately results in premature aging, especially excessive wrinkling of the skin.
Liver damage Commercial vegetable oils weaken the liver’s capability to detoxify.
Immune health Polyunsaturated vegetable oils weaken the strength of the immune system.
Reproductive organs and lungs Liquid vegetable oils can be damaging to reproductive organs and the lungs. The lungs, for example, need saturated fat to work effectively. 
Depressed learning ability In children, consumption of liquid vegetable oils can depress learning ability.
Poor growth in children Children require animal fats, like butter, to grow strong and tall. Unfortunately, vegetable oils do not contain as much fat-soluble vitamins as animal fats do.
High blood pressure We first discussed this in one of our earlier blog posts: How a Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach can help Singaporeans with high blood pressure
Weight gain and obesity When the body processes polyunsaturated oils, more fat ends up in the fat cells and isn't easily released as energy, signalling the body to find more energy. Hence the body finds it harder to tap into our stored energy, ramping up our hunger hormones and contributing to overeating.

The truth about industrial fats (trans fats)

Hardened industrial fats contain trans fats which inhibits reactions in the body including enzymes and receptors which ultimately, impairs physical health. Listed below are some of the harmful effects of consuming trans fats on a regular basis:

  • They interfere with the enzymes in your body that are needed to fight cancer
  • They interfere with the insulin receptors in your cell membranes
  • They interfere with both B and T cell function and thus, reduce your immune response
  • Women who consume trans fatty acids have a greater likelihood for obesity than women who do not consume trans fatty acid even if their calorie intake is the same
  • They can cause major clogging of your arteries
  • They interfere with enzymes needed to produce sex hormones

Denmark was the first country in Europe to ban trans fats and most other EU countries have followed suit. The Singapore Health Ministry announced plans in 2017 to limit trans fat in food and in fats and oils sold at the retail outlets so this will happen here as well but will take time.

Sources of trans fat
Sources of trans fat

Are there any good oils and fats that I can consume then?

Great question. The answer to that is YES! The good fats are traditional fats and oils that mankind has been consuming for the longest time and they are mostly derived from saturated fats. Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats are actually heart healthy and fundamental for proper growth, fertility, healthy babies, cell function, hormone production and optimal function of the heart, lungs and kidneys. In addition, they contain vitamins A, D and K2. There is now a great deal of much better quality research coming out to support that and even medical doctors are starting to wise up to this!

Here are some fantastic sources of oils and fat:

  • Butter and ghee for cooking and spreading
  • Cream and whole milk
  • Egg yolks
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Duck fat and goose fat
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil (sustainable please!)
  • Olive oil
  • Cod liver oil
  • Avocado oil

And the BAD FATS:

  • Cooking oils
  • Margarine
  • Spreads
  • Shortening
  • Artificial whipped cream
  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Chips/crisps, cookies, biscuits
  • Fried foods
  • Commercial mayonnaise and salad dressings
  • Dips
  • Commercial nut butters and spreads
  • All fast food including commercial pizzas
  • And unfortunately a lot of the food at the hawker centre

With regards to the last point the hawker centres either use vegetable oil or palm oil and you really want to check with them which one they're using. Whilst palm oil is not exactly friendly to the environment it's far better for your health than vegetable oil and you can't save the planet if you're 6 feet under!

Wrapping up

This is huge topic and we've really just scratched the surface here. But this gives a good overview of good and bad fats and why you should switch back to real food that your ancestors ate before we started getting diseases of modernity. Thanks again to The Weston A. Price Foundation who contributed much of this article. For more information on them please check them out or get in touch with us for an overview of what they do.


To your health, happiness and longevity,


The Levitise Team


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