Seed Oils: A Hidden Danger in the American Diet


David O’Brien, Editor

Seed oil is an overarching term used to describe industrially produced cooking oils. These oils are produced through a 70-minute wash in the chemical solvent hexane and refined in lye. Hexane is also used to extract oils and grease along with other contaminants in water. Lye, also referred to as sodium-hydroxide, is used for making soap. Both are chemical substances that I personally would not consciously choose to consume. Afterwards, this substance is bleached and dyed to remove the smell and the less-than-appealing color. Not only is vegetable oil clearly manufactured to meet price needs for massive restaurant chains rather than public health needs, but the ingredients used to produce it are incredibly bad for the environment. Crops used for the production of seed oils are soy, corn and cotton; some of the issues with these crops being used as oil vegetables rather than more traditional and healthier crops (an example of safe crops to be used for oil are avocado and olives) are oversaturation of the food supply leading to nutritional deficiencies due to lack of variety and displacement of nutrient dense crops that are needed for the average diet. Along with the dietary concerns of these oils are environmental issues ranging from destroyed water systems, depleted soil and heavily sprayed with chemicals and GMOs being used more often due to the current methods of producing these crops.

Seed oils are the primary sources of omega-6 fatty acids in the average American’s diet. To maintain the balance of inflammation one needs a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 acids, which should be 1:1. However, since vegetable oils are used in the majority of recipes ranging from the average household to chain restaurants, the average person, especially one living on a budget, cannot avoid having a massive imbalance which leads to inflammatory issues. The average ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Americans is 20:1. While the majority of people promote seed oils as a natural substance that are healthier ingredients to use while cooking than, say, butter or lard, they may be just as bad if not worse, seeing as inflammatory disease leads to eight of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. 

The dangers of seed oils in the American diet have gone unnoticed for far too long. As dietary fads come and go, the damage of chemical products being used in foods that are supposed to be good for us will not leave any time soon. This situation is yet another public health crisis that plagues the American public that has not been addressed. While the majority of college students are bound to be unable to avoid seed oils due to the fact we’re stuck eating B and G, fast food and are almost all on pretty low budgets for groceries. If possible, try to substitute seed oils with healthier oils to cook with, like olive or avocado oil.

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