January 3

Why No Oil – Reasons Why Oil is Unhealthy

Filed under Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition by Frederic Patenaude

Last week a met someone who asked me a few questions about diet, after seeing what I eat. The topic of olive oil came up.

I had to answer in less than a minute why the diet I promote (and try to follow as closely as possible) contains no added oil, not even the so-called “heart-healthy” olive oil.

Most people can’t fully accept that concept, because we’ve been told incorrectly over the last few decades that olive oil (and other vegetable oils) are great for health. In reality, the opposite is true!

Here’s a quick summary of the reasons why you should do your best to avoid all vegetable oils. I’ll focus on olive oil because that’s where the source of the confusion comes from, but most of these points apply to most other oils as well.

1) Oil is a refined product and the most concentrated source of calories available anywhere. One tablespoon of oil contains 120 calories of pure fat with almost no other nutrients. Refined sugar is only 50 calories per tablespoon.

The fat you eat is the fat you wear, and a few splashes of olive oil here and there can quickly add up to hundreds of extra calories that you don’t need. Worst of all, those calories are missing all the fiber and essential nutrients and are empty.

It’s been found in multiple studies that adding fat to food makes people over-consume calories without realizing it, because fat has a very low satiety factor compared to carbohydrates or proteins.

Remember: it takes 24 olives to make 1 TBS of olive oil. I don’t know about you but I’ve never once added 24 olives to a single serving of salad.

2) Oils are a concentrated source of saturated fat. Most people don’t realize that even olive oil contains almost 15% saturated fat. This fat consumed in excess contributes to a host of health problems, including arteriosclerosis and heart disease.

3) Excessive fat consumption lowers insulin sensitivity. The higher in fat your diet is, the least effective your insulin becomes. If you combine a high fat diet with a high sugar intake, you have a recipe for disaster that will lead to many health problems.

4) Vegetable oils contribute to inflammation. Omega 6 fats contribute to inflammation in the body, while omega 3 fats reduce it. But most vegetable oils have a ratio that dramatically favor omega 6 fats. We should seek to a dietary ratio of no more than 4 times the omega 6s vs. 3. Olive oil contains over ten times the omega 6 as omega 3, and many other oils are worst.

5) Olive oil doesn’t lower LDL cholesterol. It’s a myth to think that olive oil is “heart healthy.” Studies have only shown that it lowers LDL cholesterol when it REPLACES animal fats like butter. But to add olive oil (and other vegetable oils) to an otherwise healthy diet actually increases LDL levels.

6) Olive oil injures the inner lining of the arteries (called endothelium). A study conducted by Dr. Robert Vogel and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that a meal containing olive oil caused severe constrictions in arteries, contributing to heart disease. Blood flow was reduced by 31% in this study. It’s worth noting that canola oil or salmon didn’t cause this problem (however, all vegetable oils are unhealthy to some degree).

What this study found was that the protective components of the Mediterranean diet appear to be fruits and vegetables, and NOT the olive oil. Greek people only got away with eating olive oil because they consumed a lot of fruits and vegetables. They also replaced animal fats like butter with olive oil. But olive oil in itself isn’t healthy.

7) Oils release toxic compounds when heated. Many oils become carcinogenic when heated. And yes, every type of oil can withstand a different level of heart. But don’t believe for a second that nothing is happening to your oil when you start heating it. Udo Erasmus, one of the world’s most well-known experts on fats, always recommended to NEVER heat any fat. He said: “If health is what we want, water is the only oil appropriate for frying. We’re back to steaming, poaching, boiling, or pressure cooking our foods. Or, even better in most cases, eating them raw.”

What about essential fats?

It’s true, we need some fats for good health. But all whole foods contain them to a certain degree, and in the perfect omega 3/6 ratio. Additional fats should come from whole foods such as: nuts, seeds, avocados, etc. Those foods can be consumed in smaller quantities and people who want faster results should avoid them completely.

Should you believe what I say about Olive Oil and other vegetable oils? Here’s a partial list of doctors that agree with this no-oil approach:

– T. Colin Campbell
– Dr. John McDougall
– Dr. Douglas Graham
– Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
– Dr. Neal Barnard
– Dr. Joel Fuhrman
– Dr. Michael Klaper

I could list even more, but if you want more information, you can start there.

Now, does that mean you can never have a splash of olive oil? If you’re very active and burn a lot of calories, a bit of olive oil won’t hurt you. But try giving it up and you’ll notice that your taste for oil will disappear. If you crave something fatty, have a whole food like a bit of nut butter, for example.

15 Responses to “Why No Oil – Reasons Why Oil is Unhealthy”

  1. deb says:

    Fred what do you use when you make hummus?

  2. Frederic Patenaude says:

    Tahini and a little vegetable broth does the job!

  3. WN Baldwin says:

    Hi. Thanks for your article. It appears to be mostly opinion because you cite no references. (Even Dr. Mercola cites references…) This topic is well-researched and heavily published. As it appears your intention is to educate your readership, would you please include references so that we can follow up with more detail to get the best picture for ourselves.

    It’s just professional and a responsibility to your readers to cite references, if the material didn’t originate with you. (Remember your 1st elementary school paper with references?) And as you write, please remember there are always 2 sides to every coin. There’s just no “one-size-fit-all”. This way, you encourage your readers to find what works for them instead of appearing as a mesionic voice. (By definition, mesionic: supporting a social, political, or religious cause or set of beliefs with great enthusiasm and energy”.) And in this way others are empowered, although granted it does appear that a great many would just rather be led than think or question for themselves.

    On the other hand, it does appear that your articles are opinion-based, so maybe I’ve missed the point and am on the wrong website. I’ll consider this, and if that’s the case, carry on. I’m looking for facts, not opinion. I’m just in the wrong place.

    Thanks and have a great life!

  4. Phyllis says:

    Dear Frederic,

    I am a newcomer to your on-line site and e-newsletter. I signed up to gain a clear perspective on raw foods and the raw foods lifestyle. As someone who is deeply committed to good health and sensible eating, I want to obtain as much insight as possible on my health journey. However, I must admit, over the past few years I have read and listened to as many varying positions on what constitutes a health-based diet (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, raw, Ayurvedic, etc..) as there are positions on global warming.

    I can honestly say that after seeing rebuttals and evolving research supporting and validating each point of view, I have become seriously confused/frustrated and fed up (no pun intended) !

    Approximately three years ago, I was dealing with issues of high blood pressure, and I wanted to seek out the most beneficial, heart healthy way of eating I could. After seeing a well-know vegan Doctor here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I purchased T. Collin Campbell’s best-selling treatise, “The China Study” along with Dr. Esselstyn’s book.

    Prior to investigating this dietary lifestyle change, I was a casual meat eater (poultry and fish) but mostly veggies, whole grains and fruit.

    After following the advice of these health pundits, I became so sick and dangerously under weight that my GP insisted that I discontinue harming myself–although I never shared with him what diet changes I’d made.

    I followed the advice of consuming no oil (not even avocadoes or nuts) and incorporating the entire China Study protocol which all but killed me!

    This is not to discredit your personal experience and efforts to promote healthy raw eating; however, I feel that “healthy eating” as defined by most of today’s experts, whether it be raw, vegan or such is not a one-size-fits-all panacea.

    Once I incorporated avocados and small amounts of olive oil back into my diet, I began to feel far more energetic and alive.

    With so many people who go hungry (for any morsel of food) in this country and abroad; I think ‘eating right’ has suddenly become so much positioning
    for the next best seller that people like myself are left feeling a sense of
    who really to believe?!

    The bottom line is that our thoughts, attitudes and compassion contributes a lot more positively to our overall health and well-being than obsessing over whether to eat avocados or an occasional chocolate chip cookie.

  5. Dunzey says:

    I’m sure David Wolfe or Gabriel cousens M.D
    Would disagree with you on that especially
    Coconut oil!

  6. Carol Willis says:

    Hi Frederic, I usually think your articles and views on raw are super-sane, and I agree with you on the importance of not heating oils, and on desirability of eating whole olives. However, I haven’t found modest use of olive oil (e.g. 1T. in a fresh homemade salad dressing, rarely 2T. for a XXLarge salad), and use of only very fresh olive oil to be a problem, either from lipids etc testing or from a longer term intuitive felt-sense. In olive oils, I look for a VERY short time from the harvest date e.g. California Olive Ranch, not the bottling date as shown on most other olive oils — and note that typical “best by” and expiration dates are usually WAY too long. I’m in my 60s, been around naturopathic type subjects for some 45 years now, try to get a variety of different kinds of fats in modest amounts, target for 25-30% fat in my diet, recently had very extensive lipids testing done and the omega-3/6/9, monosaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats etc were all perfect in amount and proportion, also lower cholesterol, good LDL, lower blood pressure, etc. So I don’t think a tablespoon of fresh olive oil in a salad dressing is anywhere near as problematic as you make it out to be above, especially if the person is eating a medium-high raw diet otherwise. We need some saturated fats as precursors to hormones, etc. We need some omega 6’s, though many people overdo omega 6’s with insufficient attention to omega 3’s and 9’s. We need some fats generally, though many people overdo it again. So the overdoings are not a good argument against modest use of olive oil. I find the 100-120 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil to be a non-issue as well in the larger context of a day’s food. Most oils (e.g. plain fish oil commonly used for omega 3s) are so subject to rapid oxidation that I don’t have them in the house even if refrigerated, and prefer to get most fats in their whole food form in modest amounts and in rotation with other kinds of fats.

  7. Oliver says:

    you are the person i trust the most on health/nutrition, yet is it possible there are no perfect answers and more than 1 way (nutrition) to being healthy?

    Remember the book blue zone, arent many of the oldest societies eating oil as part of their diets?(if i remember correctly probably olive oil)

    And what about people who have/had cancer who have adopted the budwig diet (lots of flax seed oil) that helped them even reverse and kills their cancer (as part of a larger treatment, but supposedly this diet was crucial in that fight)

    I still think what you said is valid, but i wonder
    if there are not more than one way to be healthy, and amybe none thats 100% perfect, but some that are better for some of us, based on our health, issues etc.
    what do you think?

  8. Patricia Ann says:

    One of your best articles Frederic… thanks for the clarity regarding oils!

  9. Keith says:

    What are your thoughts on coconut oil?

  10. Linda dc says:

    I am trying to put weight on so for me I think it is okay to use 1 tablespoon of Organic Virgin Olive Oil or even less on my salad each or every second day. What else can I use? I do believe that I could eat 24 olives if they were fresh and tasty but of course not every day. I also think coconut oil is healthy and maybe even avocado oil. Flax seed oil seems too rich for me. I am frustrated in all the information available for those who want to lose weight because for me it is opposite. I eat a vegan diet and am currently on a FodMaps diet for IBS which is really helping. What about Olive Leaf Extract? Sardians have been using it for a very long time and are very healthy people.

  11. Lynn says:

    hi Frederic

    thank you for your passionate blog post and for all you do. I follow your posts and have read some of your books as well

    this issue of fat seems to be an area where varying experts seem to disagree

    can you address what e.g. “the Brain Doctor” Dr. Amen says and Dr. Mary Newport (and others) who e.g. effectively use high doses of coconut oil to reverse (and prevent!) things like Alzheimer’s.

    thank you for all you do

    with respect and gratitude,

  12. Frederic Patenaude says:

    The advice about avoiding ALL fats only applies to heart disease patients and comes from Dr. Esselstyn. I never said to eat no fats. Avocados, nuts, and seeds are healthy in the proper quantities, which vary from one individual to the next.

  13. Frederic Patenaude says:

    If you’re trying to put on weight, then eat more concentrated foods, like nut butters. There’s nothing you can find in oils that can’t be found in the whole foods they come from.

  14. Kathy says:

    Hi Fred!

    Thanks for the info on oil. Possibly it should be a slow transition to oil-free and whole foods so as not to have any adverse repercussions, especially depending upon one’s age.

    I have never heard of a cow, or monkey, or any other animal in the wild eating refined oil – accept modern-day man, not ancient man who didn’t refine oil.

    I agree with you, as it would speed up the cleansing process. I have also read about this before. If, however, one wants to have oil in their diet, that is where they are at and, in moderation, they will probably still be ahead of the game compared to the general population.

    Thanks for your bravery,


  15. Angel says:

    I stay away from oils as well. I do remember hearing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy in spite of the olive oil, not because of it. I hadn’t heard of the study about olive oil causing artery damage. Thanks for sharing the information.

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