Say NO to fake fats

Science by Dr. Ben Bikman

Of all the changes in the human diet, two stand out due to their magnitude of change and their impact on human health: 1. We eat more of our calories from starches and sugars than likely ever before; and, 2. We eat fake fat. Let’s focus on that last one.

Over the last 100 years, an incredible change has taken place in the fat we eat. Our ancestors (not even that long ago!) ate most of their fat from animal products and fruits. The animal fats are obvious—meat, eggs, and dairy, but the fruit fats may require some defining. Essentially, fruit fats are the oils that come from simply pressing the flesh of a fruit. Historically, these are mostly from coconuts and olive. These ancestral fats required no technology or chemicals—just gravity; even that provided by people simply stomping on the fruit. Animal and fruit fats are rich in the most predominant types of fats, namely saturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats. These are very stable fats, which makes them ideal for cooking [1].

Beyond saturated and mono-unsaturated fats, the next class of fats are polyunsaturated fats. These are the fats that health experts have told us to eat for the last 50+ years because they have less effect on blood cholesterol and, as the thinking goes, are better for heart health. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to the case [2]. Much of the problem with the polyunsaturated fats is that we eat too much of the wrong kind. The omega-6 fat linoleic acid, predominantly from soybean oil, is now the most commonly consumed fat in our diet [3]. Think about that for a moment—within the span of about 100 years, we went from eating ZERO soybean oil to it being the single largest source of fat in our diets. Linoleic acid is uniquely harmful, playing a causative role in heart disease [4], insulin resistance [5], fatty liver disease [6], and more.

Unfortunately, the more omega-6 linoleic acid we eat, the less we can use omega-3 fats; omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for use by the body, and the excessive consumption of omega-6 prevents the effective use of omega-3 fatty acids [7]. To help omega-3 work better, we need to balance our omegas with a ratio that favors omega-3, providing a competitive advantage to the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid, which is far less often consumed, thereby improving overall health [8]. In fact, alpha-linolenic acid, the primary omega-3 included in flax seed is the most readily metabolized of the long-chain fats in the human diet [9].

Take-away Thoughts

One the best strategies for a healthy diet is “don’t fear fat”. We do this best by focusing on natural fats, with an effort to balance the consumptions of omega-6 and omega-3. The biblical prophet Isaiah said it best when he stated “let your soul delight itself in fatness”!



1. Different Commercial Oils during Heating. Acta Scientifica Nutritional Health 2018, 2, (6), 2-11.
2. Ramsden, C. E.; Zamora, D.; Majchrzak-Hong, S.; Faurot, K. R.; Broste, S. K.; Frantz, R. P.; Davis, J. M.; Ringel, A.; Suchindran, C. M.; Hibbeln, J. R., Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73). BMJ 2016, 353, i1246.
3. Blasbalg, T. L.; Hibbeln, J. R.; Ramsden, C. E.; Majchrzak, S. F.; Rawlings, R. R., Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2011, 93, (5), 950-62.
4. Ramsden, C. E.; Zamora, D.; Leelarthaepin, B.; Majchrzak-Hong, S. F.; Faurot, K. R.; Suchindran, C. M.; Ringel, A.; Davis, J. M.; Hibbeln, J. R., Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. BMJ 2013, 346, e8707.
5. Simopoulos, A. P., Is insulin resistance influenced by dietary linoleic acid and trans fatty acids? Free radical biology & medicine 1994, 17, (4), 367-72.
6. Maciejewska, D.; Ossowski, P.; Drozd, A.; Ryterska, K.; Jamiol-Milc, D.; Banaszczak, M.; Kaczorowska, M.; Sabinicz, A.; Raszeja-Wyszomirska, J.; Stachowska, E., Metabolites of arachidonic acid and linoleic acid in early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease–A pilot study. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat 2015, 121, (Pt B), 184-9.
7. Bibus, D.; Lands, B., Balancing proportions of competing omega-3 and omega-6 highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA) in tissue lipids. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids 2015, 99, 19-23.
8. Simopoulos, A. P., The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie 2002, 56, (8), 365-79.
9. Pifferi, F.; Tremblay, S.; Plourde, M.; Tremblay-Mercier, J.; Bentourkia, M.; Cunnane, S. C., Ketones and brain function: possible link to polyunsaturated fatty acids and availability of a new brain PET tracer, 11C-acetoacetate. Epilepsia 2008, 49 Suppl 8, 76-9.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.