Research Update: Carbs Raise Cholesterol & Veggie Oil Associated with IBS & IBD

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I recently came across two articles that I think you should read.

The first is over on Dr. William Davis’s blog, The Heart Scan. Dr. Davis reviews a study demonstrating that consumption of excess carbohydrate can raise cholesterol.

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that normal LDL cholesterol isn’t a risk factor for heart disease, right? So I am generally not concerned with what does or doesn’t raise cholesterol.

However, there is a type of cholesterol that is a significant risk factor for heart disease: small, dense LDL cholesterol.

Small, dense LDL particles are more likely to become oxidized, and as I have explained in How to Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease, oxidized LDL is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease we know of.

Dr. Davis clearly explains how eating too many carbs can increase your levels of small, dense LDL and he also explains why so many doctors and researchers don’t make this crucial connection. Check out the full article here.

The second article is on Dr. Barry Groves’ Second Opinions blog. He reviews a study which links consumption of linoleic acid to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Linoleic acid is an omega-6 (n-6) essential fatty acid. “Essential” in this context means that humans can’t make it internally and need to eat it in the diet. However, we only need a tiny amount – about a teaspoonful per day – and eating too much of it can cause serious problems. Eating too much linoleic acid dramatically increases oxidized LDL cholesterol levels, which as I just explained in the last section significantly elevates our risk of heart disease. Linoleic acid is also pro-inflammatory, and inflammation is a major contributor to modern diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and, you guessed it, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Tragically, linoleic acid has become one of the primary sources of calories in the American diet. Vegetable oils containing linoleic acid (such as soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed) are found in nearly all packaged and processed foods and all foods cooked in a restaurant. Almost all fried foods are extremely high in linoleic acid.

Is it any wonder, then, that Irritable Bowel Syndrome has reached such epidemic proportions? It is now the #2 leading cause for people missing work, behind only the common cold. It affects millions of people in the U.S. and abroad. There is no known “cure”, and the medications prescribed for it are largely ineffective.

This is yet another example of how toxic and harmful our modern diets are. If you want to avoid these conditions, eat traditional, saturated fats like butter, lard and coconut oil instead of industrially-processed vegetable oils. You’ll feel better, and you’ll enjoy your food a lot more too!

11 Comments

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  1. Weston Price seems to have taken down that canola oil article. It was really interesting and I was going to show it to a friend but it no longer exists.

    • They changed their website structure around. The article you’re referring to is now here.

  2. Great points and FANTASTIC website.

    The only thing I can add is that I think what happened to demonize saturated fat is happening to linoleic acid.

    One of the reasons that saturated fat got its undeservedly bad wrap is that researchers made no distinction between saturated and trans fats so even though it was the trans fats that were creating the problem and not the non-damaged saturated fats, the baby got thrown out with the bath water.

    The same thing is happening with Omega-6 (linoleic acid). The reason it is getting blamed incorrectly is that researchers aren’t considering the fact that undamaged linoleic acid isn’t the problem – it’s most likely the damaged kind that’s creating the negative effects.

    Because linoleic acid is such a long chain polyunsaturated fat, it is VERY susceptible to damage. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get linoleic acid today that isn’t damaged. You have to really go out of your way to get it.

    And damaged linoleic acid is ubiquitous. It’s in every salad dressing and just about anything that comes in a bottle as well as just about every packaged good.

    While everyone believes (in large part thanks to Barry Sears of The Zone diet) that we should limit Omega-6 consumption in favor of Omega-3, this is actually backward, as we need more 6 than 3. I too believed this for many years and only recently figured out how this recommendation became so widespread. You can’t count the damaged Omega-6 as part of our linoleic acid consumption and then make extrapolations from there.

    If researchers take this issue of damaged vs. undamaged linoleic acid into account, they will see that higher intakes of linoleic acid correlate with less heart disease and inflammation.

    • Thanks for your comment and I agree with you to some extent. However, if someone follows the nutrient-dense, whole foods based diet that I suggest on the site, they will undoubtedly get all of the undamaged LA that they need. That’s why I don’t recommend supplementing with it. Most people have FAR too much n-6 in their diets, and as you pointed out, it has been oxidized and damaged due to processing and/or heating.

      I would also argue that most of the nutritional benefit we get from LA comes from its longer chain derivatives DGLA and AA. The problem with supplementing with LA is that the conversion process of LA > GLA > DGLA > AA can be impaired, especially in people dealing with chronic illness (a high percentage of Americans today). That’s one of many reasons why I recommend eating liver and other organ meats (for DGLA) and butter, lard, other animal fats and egg yolks (for AA). This way we get the longer-chain fats we need without worrying about the conversion process.

  3. Hi Tracee,

    Welcome to THS!  Thanks for the feedback.  Glad to know you’ve had great results with the grain free diet.  I’m very familiar with SCD and have followed a similar approach called the GAPS diet.  It’s basically SCD but with emphasis on traditional, saturated fats (which SCD doesn’t mention) and more fermented foods.  I have Crohn’s myself and GAPS hsa been incredibly helpful.

  4. I just found your blog and it’s geat. I, too, had to do some medical research for my son’s condition, autism, and came to the same conclusion that you did about what we’ve been taught about diet. I like to call it the “Holy Crap! Everyone needs to know this moment”. Anyways, using omega-3 supplements and eliminating all the unnecessary junk omega-6 fats in our diet was the first thing we did and got some great results for our son. Then we put him on the SCD diet (a grain-free crap-free diet) and got a jaw dropping miracle. I noticed I felt better to and was later diagnosed with Celiacs and Crohn’s. Turns out our Welsh ancestors had high omega-3 diet, no wonder junk oils were messing us up. They also were not exposed to grains until about 1000 years ago.

    Well anyways, you have a new reader!

  5. Chris, I just discovered your blog through a link from Whole Health Source.   Good stuff here!

    • Canoloa and olive oil aren’t particularly high in linoleic acid, so they’re unlikely to cause the problems I outlined here. I recommend olive oil, but advise against canola. Here’s why.

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