Learn how Some Oils Can be Damaging To Your Health and What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

Ever feel confused by the conflicting opinions about how healthy or damaging fats and oils can be for your health? Remember when we were told that vegetable, canola, and corn oils were healthier than olive oil? That butter was fattening, increased cholesterol levels, and the risk of heart disease and we ought to use margarine instead? Or to limit our consumption of eggs to a few a week but cereals, low-fat dairy products, and bagels were the way to go?

The trend of low-fat, high-carb diets began in the late 1970s and early 80s, when North America saw a spike in deaths due to heart disease. At that time, without understanding the complex role that saturated fat plays in our body and all of its benefits to our health, it was falsely accused of causing increased LDL (often referred to as ‘bad’) cholesterol. It took the blame for weight gain, increased heart disease, and cholesterol among the population. So people were told to replace their high consumption of fats and cholesterol with carbohydrates instead. What most people didn’t realize is that choosing the low- or no-fat option meant that the fat in their food was being replaced with sugar. So our healthy saturated fats took the back seat to packaged products, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. 

At around the same time, the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs began to gain popularity among the medical industry for their ability to lower cholesterol and improve heart health. However, the rate of deaths related to heart disease continues to steadily. This topic is clearly not as black and white as previously thought.

What many of us didn’t understand at the time is that not all fats are created equal.

Fatty Acids 101

The body needs different types of fatty acids as they provide energy, make up the cell membranes, help absorb certain vitamins and minerals, and even produce important hormones.

Healthy fats can be broken down into two main categories: unsaturated fats and saturated fatty acids.

The saturated fat definition includes fatty acids without double bonds and includes animal and dairy products and coconut oil. Although once considered unhealthy and artery-clogging, more and more research has shown that saturated fats should be included in moderation in our diet. 

The unsaturated fat definition includes any type of fatty acid that contains at least one double bond. These fats are further classified as either monounsaturated (MUFA) fat or polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) based on the number of double bonds they contain. Unsaturated fats can include foods like vegetable and seed oils, nuts, and fish.

Your body is able to make most of the fatty acids it needs from other fats. However, there are two types of fatty acids the body is unable to synthesize: linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid). Essential fatty acids can only be obtained through foods because they cannot be synthesized in the body.

Omega-3  and omega-6 can each be broken down into three forms.


  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—found in nuts and seeds like flax, walnut, chia and hemp, as well as canola and soybean 
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—found in cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines), wild game and enriched eggs

An interesting fact, however, DHA is the only omega-3 also found in algae.


  • Linoleic acid (LA)—found in seeds, nuts, grains, and vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)—found in borage, black currant seeds and evening primrose oil
  • Arachidonic acid (AA), present in animal fat, dairy and shellfish

There are also omega-9 fatty acids, which are monounsaturated fats. But since they are not considered essential, meaning the body can produce them, our focus will remain on obtaining the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3.

The Battle Of The Fats

The 2016 Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1), discovered that replacing saturated fat with omega-6 vegetable oil did in fact lower cholesterol levels by 13.8% but actually increased mortality rates and cardiovascular illnesses. So if lowering the LDL cholesterol can actually hinder your health and since statins only reduce your risk of heart attack by 1.1%, it might be worth reconsidering their use. They could potentially be doing more harm than good. A 2015 review of statins revealed that those taking the medication were at a higher risk of diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, liver damage, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric problems, immune system suppression, osteoporosis and cataracts. (2)

The truth is, that our bodies need saturated and unsaturated fats from animal or plant sources. Fats provide a multitude of health benefits, including better muscle recovery and exercise endurance, lower levels of stress, improved insulin function, increased sex-hormone production, less inflammation, and positive effects on depression.

Fatty Acids Deficiencies and Imbalances

How you might wonder, does an omega imbalance manifest itself? How might you recognize the signs?

Common signs to look out for that could indicate that your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is off balance include:

  • Allergies
  • Dry, flaky, alligator skin or “chicken skin on the back of arms, cracked heels or skin on fingertips, dandruff or dry hair
  • Lowered immunity, poor wound healing, frequent infections
  • Dry eyes
  • Brittle and soft nails that chip and peel
  • Fatigue and sleep issues
  • Poor memory and focus, hyperactivity, irritability
  • Frequent urination or excessive thirst

However, you may experience different symptoms if you are deficient in omega-6 arachidonic acid versus omega-6 DHA.

For example, if you are lacking arachidonic acid, you could experience symptoms of:

  • Dry, itchy, scaly skin
  • Dandruff and/or hair loss
  • Reproductive difficulties
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Food intolerances

Whereas if you were deficient in DHA, which is a critical element to healthy neurological function, you might experience different symptoms such as:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness or pain
  • Psychological disturbances
  • Poor cognition
  • Poor visual acuity

Why Are Balanced Omegas Ratios So Important?

The information about essential fatty acids can get a little confusing at times. The advice we receive about omegas also seems to contradict itself often. One day we’re told to use one type because it’s better for our health, and the next day we’re told to stop using it because it can be damaging to our health. 

Let’s shed a bit of light on the fat, oil, and omega saga so you have a better understanding of the relationship between them and their influence on your health. 

Eating a healthy balance of omega-6:omega-3 fats also plays a crucial role in the health and proper functioning of our cell membranes—the outer layer of our cell. That cell membrane has a double layer of proteins and lipids (fat) and is made of both saturated and unsaturated fats. A healthy balance also helps to normalize liver function, which if you don’t already know, is the powerhouse of the body systems, featuring over 500+ different functions. So if your omega imbalance is affecting liver function, you better believe that your health will be impacted somehow. Additional health benefits associated with healthy omega-6:omega-3 ratios include better weight management, balancing LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improving HDL levels, reducing inflammation and blood pressure, and preventing atherosclerosis.

Atomic Bonds

As mentioned earlier, the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats is that saturated fats have single bonds in their chemical structure, which means they don’t bend easily. Actually, their composition allows them to maintain a tight and rigid membrane bilayer. In contrast, unsaturated fats have double bonds in their structure, creating bends in the chain that prevents them from packing and stacking so tightly within the membrane. This is a good thing because it allows the cell membrane to be more flexible. But, this also means that if the omega ratio swings too far to one side, it can impact the shape of the cell and the ability for nutrients to flow freely in and out of it as needed. Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are unsaturated fatty acids that can be incorporated into the cell membranes and influence membrane fluidity and deformability. In other words, cells can either harden and lead to arterial and endothelial “plaque” buildup (hardening of the arteries), increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, or become so fluid that toxins and nutrients flow freely in and out of the cells. Also, toxins attach to the cell membrane and decrease its flexibility. So if we have an imbalance, then we are at risk of inflaming the cell membrane, therefore breaking down the communication between the cell membrane and your DNA, causing more than just heart disease, but also an autoimmune disease, high cholesterol, arthritis,  diabetes, brain degeneration, and even cancer. Maintaining the integrity of our cell membrane is crucial for supporting the metabolic needs of our cells.

If Omega-6 Is So Essential For Our Health, Why Is There So Much Emphasis On Reducing Our Consumption Of It?

Yes, omega-6 is an essential nutrient that has many health benefits, but when consumed in excess, we risk increasing the LA levels, and that becomes a risk to our health. High LA levels contribute to low-grade inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood pressure, as well as endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis leading to blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

LA makes up about 60% to 80% of the omega-6 fat and is the primary fatty acid found in vegetable and seed oils in most processed and restaurant foods. (3) LA is also hidden in healthy foods like conventionally raised pork and chicken since the majority are fed grains containing high LA levels such as corn and soy. Can you understand why this becomes a little more complex? 

And as much as we would like to believe that we are avoiding omega-6 fats by choosing healthier menu options or more reputable restaurants, chances are, your food, sauces, and salad dressing contain vegetable or seed oil, like corn, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, canola, peanut or soybean, which as we know contain high levels of LA. Unless, of course, you are able to confirm with the chef that they are cooking with butter only. And even though olive oil and avocado oil are considered healthier options of good fats, many are still mixed with vegetable seed oil and are not as pure as we are led to believe. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to limit your consumption to one tablespoon per day.

Over the last 150 years, the LA in the human diet has increased exponentially from about 2 to 3 grams a day to 30 or 40 grams. (4)  

How Is This Problematic?

Well, when consumed in excess, omega-6 causes severe oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, triggering most disease processes. The LA from the omega-6 breaks down into harmful subcomponents called oxidized linoleic acid metabolites (OXLAMs). According to Dr. Chris Knobbe, an ophthalmologist and the founder and president of the Cure AMD Foundation, OXLAMs have the ability to damage cells and DNA, as well as promote cell mutation, arterial plaque buildup, and blood clotting. (5) OXLAMs are also toxic to the liver and are associated with inflammation, fibrosis and fatty liver disease in humans. (6) 

Did you know, that LA can stay in your cells for up to seven years? 


So if you don’t make any lifestyle changes like opting for home-cooked meals and less processed foods more often, the LA and OXLAMS will continue to build up and cause far more damage to your health. At a molecular level, too much LA is damaging to your metabolism and blocks the mitochondria from making energy, also known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), leaving you feeling tired all the time, and unable to handle highly stressful situations or activities. 

It’s important to note that some good fats become ‘bad’ (or oxidized) when heated, and should not be used in cooking. When you’re cooking with high heat, opt for using saturated fats and oils that do not oxidize or go rancid easily such as coconut oil and avocado oil, as well as butter, ghee, and animal fats from grass-fed livestock. Oils such as olive, flaxseed, sustainably-sourced palm, and nuts are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and are best consumed in salad dressings or at room temperature.

Improve Your Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratio

Although many now understand that having an equal amount of omega-3 to omega 6 is very important, this balance cannot be achieved by simply increasing the omega-3s in your diet. In fact, this can be a dangerous approach and death rates can be easily attributed to a person’s levels. What really needs to happen is to first ensure you are consuming organic and unadulterated omega-6 to avoid additional toxins, and second, reduce your consumption of it to prevent any damage. 

How Can You Do That?

Well, the best and most obvious solution to avoiding these harmful oils is to stop cooking with them. Avoid processed foods and condiments, as well as fast or even regular restaurant food. You can find loads of recipes online from some amazing resources to help you curve your usage of harmful oils by teaching you to make some of your own condiments.

If possible, opt for organic meat as conventionally raised animals are fed wheat, corn and soy, instead of grass, therefore, the amount of omega-3 fats drop significantly and omega-6 fats increase, further contributing to the ratio imbalance.

You may also want to boost your omega-3 fat intake by eating cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies because they are low in environmental toxins and have anti-inflammatories properties that are quite beneficial for brain and heart health. If you’re not a big fish fan, you can use a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil or obtain it from nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia, flax seed flax, hemp and organic fermented soy.

Having a balanced diet of saturated and unsaturated fats (omega-6:omega-3) is crucial to the integrity of each type of cell membrane and its fatty acid compositions because it influences their flexibility. The higher the discrepancy between the omega-6 and omega-3, the more damage to our cell membranes, leading to more inflammation in our body and more harm to our health. 

Studies show that the majority of the American population has a much higher omega-6 than omega-3 ratio, as high as 25:1 with the average being 11:1. (7) In order to minimize inflammation, prevent disease and achieve optimal health, research suggests an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 1:1 to 4:1. (8) And if you’re looking at radically influencing cell membranes to promote improved brain function, 4:1 is the sweet spot for such results.


How To Find Out Your Omega-6:Omega:3 Ratio 

Studies show that achieving the optimal omega-3 index—between 8-12%—will greatly reduce your health risks, but anything below 4% is considered a serious health risk. Currently, the average American is sitting just on the cusp at around 5%. (9)

It may be worth testing your blood to find out how you rate on the omega-3 index, and use it as a guide to set yourself on the right path. This index basically measures the omega-3 concentration levels in red blood cell membranes, which impact the health of the heart, muscles, liver and intestines. It could help you figure out what type of changes you need to make to your diet and lifestyle to bring back a good balance of fatty acids,  and to reduce inflammation, the risk of cardiovascular disease, and death.

Omegaquant, a CLIA-certified laboratory founded in 2009 offering a variety of nutritional status tests, is a very reputable lab that I like to use for this type of testing. Omegaquant testing’s accessibility makes it easier to independently test yourself regularly in order to track and monitor how your dietary changes are affecting your blood levels. Unlike the typical omega-3 or fatty acid testing that requires a blood draw that then gets sent to a lab for analysis, this test uses a dried blood spot test that requires a simple quick finger stick and one drop of blood. Anyone can easily do it from the comfort of home and mail it to the lab to obtain their results. 

Another great tool to complete your toolbox, wouldn’t you say! 

Take charge of your health before it takes charge of your life.

Yours in health,

Dr. Nathalie.

Specific references:
  1. Ramsden C E, Zamora D, Majchrzak-Hong S, Faurot K R, Broste S K, Frantz R P et al. Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73) BMJ 2016; 353 :i1246 doi:10.1136/bmj.i1246
  2. Research confirms statins are a colossal waste of money. Mercola.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2022/06/09/have-statins-reduced-heart-disease.aspx
  3. Mercola, D. J. (2021, November 15). Tucker Goodrich – how linoleic acid wrecks your health. Tucker Goodrich – How Linoleic Acid Wrecks Your Health. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/linoleic-acid-health-effects?s=r  
  4. Mercola, D. J. (2021, November 15). Tucker Goodrich – how linoleic acid wrecks your health. Tucker Goodrich – How Linoleic Acid Wrecks Your Health. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/linoleic-acid-health-effects?s=r  
  5. 10 Things to Eliminate for Better Health. Mercola.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/10-things-to-eliminate-for-better-health?s=r 
  6. Schuster, S., Johnson, C. D., Hennebelle, M., Holtmann, T., Taha, A. Y., Kirpich, I. A., Eguchi, A., Ramsden, C. E., Papouchado, B. G., McClain, C. J., & Feldstein, A. E. (2018). Oxidized linoleic acid metabolites induce liver mitochondrial dysfunction, apoptosis, and NLRP3 activation in mice. Journal of lipid research, 59(9), 1597–1609. https://doi.org/10.1194/jlr.M083741
  7. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 (S1):131-134
  8. Simopoulos A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 56(8), 365–379. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0753-3322(02)00253-6
  9. Simopoulos A. P. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 56(8), 365–379. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0753-3322(02)00253-6  
General references:
  1. 10 Things to Eliminate for Better Health. Mercola.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/10-things-to-eliminate-for-better-health?s=r 
  2. Research confirms statins are a colossal waste of money. Mercola.com. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2022/06/09/have-statins-reduced-heart-disease.aspx 
  3. Beauchamp, N. (2018). Hack your health habits: Simple, action drive, natural health solutions for people on the go. Rebel Press. 
  4. OmegaQuant. (2022, May 12). New study shows a higher omega-3 index suggests healthier cells. OmegaQuant. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://omegaquant.com/new-study-shows-a-higher-omega-3-index-suggests-healthier-cells/ 
  5. Says:, R., Says:, [E. P., says:, T., says:, L. G., says:, J. M., says:, M. R., says:, J. A., says:, G. reap, says:, R., says:, D. H., says:, H., Says:, P. K., says:, R. S., says:, M. B., says:, B., says:, J. M., says:, C. G., says:, V. K., says:, M. L. V., … says:, G. W. (2021, November 22). #83 – Bill Harris, Ph.d.: Omega-3 fatty acids. Peter Attia. Retrieved June 11, 2022, from https://peterattiamd.com/billharris/
  6. DiNicolantonio, J. J., & O’Keefe, J. H. (2018). Importance of maintaining a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio for reducing inflammation. Open heart, 5(2), e000946. https://doi.org/10.1136/openhrt-2018-000946 
  7. Mercola, D. J. (2022, June 15). Understanding your liver health. Understanding Your Liver Health – by Dr. Joseph Mercola. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://takecontrol.substack.com/p/understanding-your-liver-health?s=r 
  8. Administrator. (2019, March 13). Omega-3 deficiency symptoms & how to get enough: Camas Swale. Camas Swale Medical Clinic. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://www.camasmedical.com/2019/03/13/omega-3-deficiency-symptoms/  
  9. Mercola, J. (n.d.). The Science Is Screaming: Don’t Make This Trendy Mistake. Mercola.com. Retrieved June 21, 2022, from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2022/06/20/everything-you-need-to-know-about-fatty-acids.aspx 
General Health Seed Oils—Are They Beneficial Or Harmful?