Episode 37

Peanut Butter - Don't Feel Guilty

Published on: 6th June, 2023

Seed Oils, Omega 6, and Inflammation

Just about everyone in the low-carb community is talking about how bad seed oils are. They claim the medical community has it wrong. The conspiracy-minded folks claim doctors want to keep people sick. Thus dependent on medicine for pills and surgery. Hence, seed oils are the new evil part of the picture.

The New Sugar Conspiracy

Seed oils, hydrogenated oils, and omega-6 fatty acids have replaced sugar as the new reason for ill health in America.

Their logic goes like this:

Seed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. They claim that high Omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. Therefore, if you have more seed oils in your diet, you will have more inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of heart disease.

Their argument is logical, partially true, and the conclusion is incorrect.  They are selling you snake oil (well, usually supplements).

It is Peanut Butter

The keto crowd will say how "real" peanut butter is made with peanuts and salt. Claiming this peanut butter is "candy" or "full of garbage" and isn't fit to be eaten. But is it? Let's break this down.

Added Sugar

First, the added sugar, which according to the label is 3 grams per serving (two tablespoons), so the whole thing is 190 calories, of which 12 of those calories come from sugar, the rest from fat.

Here is the label from Sprouts Pure Peanut Butter. Nothing but ground peanuts. No salt, no oils, no sugar. There are 200 calories from two tablespoons.

Of the 200 calories from all peanut butter, with no added sugar, you get the same number of calories from the peanut butter with sugar in it. How much sugar? Well, about 3 grams per serving of sugar. How much is that? Not much.  To exceed the recommended dose of sugar from the American Heart Association, you would need to have more than 6% of your calories.  In Skippy, it is 1.5% added sugar.

Low Carb Sugar Conspiracy

Sugar was the "evil" that low carbohydrate folks said caused obesity. If you read their literature from twenty-plus years ago, it blamed sugar for obesity. Not just sugar, but any carb that was sugar, they claimed, would become fat. They even had their alternative view of history of obesity in the country.

They stated that the world was not obese until Ancel Keys blamed heart disease on fat. Then the US government promoted a low-fat diet. The result was obesity bloomed because they replaced fat with sugar. That evil food pyramid caused people to turn away from fat, substituting sugar. That sugar substitution led to obesity.

It sounds so logical. If you ever go on a low-carb diet (Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Keto, Carnivore), you stop eating junk food and eat steak. You feel satisfied eating lots of meat.  Then you get tired of steak. You lose weight because you are in a calorie deficit, not because of ketosis. But that weight loss leads to confirmation of the theory that sugar made you fat.

You go off the restrictive diet. Now you gain weight. You gain weight because you are eating more. But you blame the slice of bread. What you forget is now you are eating more steak because you have more flavors in your mouth. That slice of bread is 100 calories, but you think an 18-ounce Porterhouse (1260 calories) is a diet food? So you blame the bread or the lava cake. But not the extra calories.

Where It Falls Apart

But something about your low-carb diet doesn't make sense. You notice that obesity has increased in the United States. But sugar consumption has fallen. How does that work?

You might wonder how that whole fruit is bad. Your low-carb coach says it's full of sugar. The community says it will "spike your insulin." Concluding that insulin causes you to store fat. But the scientific community shows study after study that people who eat whole fruits live longer and better. In fact, even diabetics who eat whole fruits have lower hemoglobin A1c. How is that? How can fruit be so healthy?

The latest low carbohydrate fad is the carnivore crowd. They eat fruit now. Maybe that is the answer - the evolution from the Paleo caveman diet to the Carnivore diet. Here is the problem: it is still a fad.

Longest Living People

Then you read that the longest-living people eat a lot of carbohydrates. In the Blue Zones, they live long, consuming a diet rich in carbohydrates.

You go to Italy and see everyone is thin and beautiful, and eating pasta. The Mediterranean diet is the best, but it is 55% carbohydrates.

You go to Asia and see thin people shoveling in white rice.

Your eyes open and you think maybe you were just fooled.

Fructose is the problem

In 2010 David Lustig came out with his famous YouTube video. Sugar is made of two molecules, fructose, and glucose. Glucose, he said, was not the problem. It was fructose. And high fructose corn syrup was in everything.

This brief idea was based on mouse metabolism. Not on human metabolism.

It was a cute fad that allowed you to blame big corn for the world's obesity. But the facts didn't add up here either. On to the next conspiracy.

Seed oils are the problem

The data shows that sugar isn't the cause of obesity. So they have come up with a new conspiracy. Seed oils are the problem.

Canola, safflower, corn, peanut, and just any vegetable oils cause the problem.

Seed oil consumption has increased worldwide, and so has obesity. There is the correlation. Simple minds like simple correlations.

While their conclusion is incorrect, it is important to see why they came to these ideas.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are truly evil. They are a primary cause of heart disease. But before knowing this, they were the darling of food activists in the United States.

The movement was from food activists like Phil Sokolof. He suffered from a heart attack and believed saturated fat was evil. He took out full-page ads in major newspapers, and attacked the use of beef tallow in McDonald's french fries. Those fries were so much tastier. As he lobbied fast-food and commercial bakeries to switch to vegetable oils, he didn't understand they were adding trans fats.

Vegetable oils are healthy for the heart. But vegetable oils are liquid at room temperature. So you have to hydrogenate the vegetable oil, for it to become solid at room temperature. During hydrogenation, you create a lot of trans fatty acids.

In 2008, the American Medical Association urged the prohibition of trans fats in commercial bakeries and restaurants (reference). Finally, the medical community was listened to, and trans fats were outlawed in the United States (reference).

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils Are Not Trans Fats

Just because you chemically alter vegetable oil does not mean it is a trans fat.  Since the FDA has outlawed trans fats, they are removed from the process.

Naturally occurring trans-fats are found in animal fats. Like butter, which is 3% trans fats.  Breast milk contains a form of trans fats called vaccenic acid, which has health benefits. Hydrogenation produces many forms of trans fatty acids that cause harm. But currently, hydrogenation does not involve making trans fatty acids.

What are seed oils?

Saying something is a seed oil is incorrect. Seed oils are not just one type of oil. Canola oil is much like olive oil, in that the main fatty acid is oleic acid (reference).

Canola oil is much maligned. Detractors will say it is highly inflammatory. In fact, canola oil decreases inflammation in the human body (reference). Canola oil not only reduces inflammation but also reduces total cholesterol in the blood. Compared to saturated fat, like butter from grass-fed bison or unicorns, it decreases all cardiac risk factors.

Some point out that canola comes from the rapeseed plant, which has been genetically modified. Thus, it must be filled with pesticides. They further tell you that canola oil has been used to run farm machinery. They fail to point out the obvious - olive oil can do the same. In fact, olive oil was the first electricity in the world, lighting homes, and running farm equipment.

Seed Oils the new Sugar Conspiracy

Seed oils, as it turns out, are not inflammatory. They do not cause an increase in heart disease. They decrease the risk of heart disease.

Seed oils are in a lot of junk food. Some call them the ultra-processed foods. That doesn't make them bad. Junk foods also have a lot of sugar and a lot of salt. It isn't the oil per se, or the sugar, or the salt. It is that you can eat a lot of junk food. Junk food is readily available.

Back to Peanut Butter

Don't feel guilty for eating Skippy, Jiff, or whatever brand you like. Peanut oil is healthy for you. The sugar content is minimal. The hydrogenated oil makes the butter creamy without oil separation and decreases the risk of it going bad. As if peanut butter could ever go bad in my house.

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About the Podcast

Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson
Learn more about what you put in your mouth.
Fork U(niversity)
Not everything you put in your mouth is good for you.

There’s a lot of medical information thrown around out there. How are you to know what information you can trust, and what’s just plain old quackery? You can’t rely on your own “google fu”. You can’t count on quality medical advice from Facebook. You need a doctor in your corner.

On each episode of Your Doctor’s Orders, Dr. Terry Simpson will cut through the clutter and noise that always seems to follow the latest medical news. He has the unique perspective of a surgeon who has spent years doing molecular virology research and as a skeptic with academic credentials. He’ll help you develop the critical thinking skills so you can recognize evidence-based medicine, busting myths along the way.

The most common medical myths are often disguised as seemingly harmless “food as medicine”. By offering their own brand of medicine via foods, These hucksters are trying to practice medicine without a license. And though they’ll claim “nutrition is not taught in medical schools”, it turns out that’s a myth too. In fact, there’s an entire medical subspecialty called Culinary Medicine, and Dr. Simpson is certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist.

Where today's nutritional advice is the realm of hucksters, Dr. Simpson is taking it back to the realm of science.

About your host

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Terry Simpson

Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. Until he found he liked people more than petri dishes. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2018 and 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.”