I would wager that most who are trying to avoid genetically modified foods prefer to eat foods that have long been part of the human diet. They tend to prefer locally grown, heirloom varieties, if available.
I would wager that most of these people would consider any food whose genes have been altered using foreign bacterial enzymes and DNA-repair-system damaging techniques to be genetically modified.
I would wager that most of these people buying a kale salad dressed with a blend of organic olive and sunflower oil neither expect nor want to be served transfats.
I would also wager that most of these people actually are eating certified organic, non-GMO verified foods that contain transfats and generally do not meet their expectations and standards. This is happening because of the types of fats increasingly used in deli and processed foods.
What is Gene Silencing?
My understanding of gene silencing is not deep but here is an outline of the technique. Usually foreign bacterial nucleases are used to bind and break the plant’s DNA at precisely chosen points. This triggers a faulty DNA repair process that causes some permanent damage. If done “well,” this will create a knockout or loss-of-function mutation that deletes a protein, such as an enzyme that blocks the transformation of a fat into oleic acid. As a result, the plant will make large amounts of oleic acid. If made in the 75-85% range, they have created a high oleic food oil seed. If the plant makes it in the 95% or higher range, they have a seed that provides a renewable source of rocket fuel. At this point, however, the seed still contains foreign bacterial material and would be treated as genetically modified. It would need government approval before entering the human food chain.
However, the foreign nuclease (usually from a bacteria such as Xanthomonas that tends to damage plants) is only needed temporarily and can be bred out. Because the genetic modification involved was only temporary, the resulting high oleic seed is no longer considered genetically modified. It can be — and often is — certified organic or verified as non-GMO. Because something that might occur naturally is being mimicked, there is no expensive or time-consuming regulatory process required before these new foods are brought to market. No safety studies are required at all, a simple GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) letter will do.
Are high oleic oils safe?
The argument in favor of gene silencing is that it mimics a natural process and simply speeds up what might perhaps have occurred over time with hybridizing, radiation, and a variety of other modern methods of mutagenesis. I am unaware of studies showing a glaring problem with the resulting seeds. Nonetheless I question the process:
There is an implicit assumption that silencing a gene that blocks the production of oleic acid has only that effect. This is based on the theory that one gene only controls one protein, a theory that many now question. Moreover, we do not know why some plants, such as olives, produce a lot of oleic acid while others, such as sunflowers or soybeans, do not. There is evidence that the balance of different fats in plants varies with environmental temperature and things like rainfall but not much is known about this at all. We also know little about how diverting plant resources into the manufacture of oleic acid may deplete other constituents. We do know that when we manipulate corn to create ever sweeter hybrids, we lose nutritional qualities in the process. It is quite possible that increasing the oleic acid in a plant will deplete other compounds, ultimately creating a less beneficial plant. But there is definitely an unspoken assumption that silencing a gene will not upset other systems. And, given the lack of regulation of gene silencing, there is no pressure to study or verify the various assumptions being made.
As well, pollen from these silenced plants will move through our environment. Apparently no thought or concern is given to what effects that might have over time.
Are high oleic oils healthy?
The FDA concluded that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil are what makes it heart healthy. Oleic acid makes up the greater portion of olive oil’s monounsaturated fats and, as a result, many assume that all high oleic oils will be equally beneficial. This ignores research, however, that shows that oleic acid is also the predominant fatty acid in pork and chicken — foods NOT especially heart healthy. Thus, as many studies have concluded, we should NOT assume that the oleic acid is what makes olive oil a very healthy oil. In fact, studies suggest that oleic oil may not be good for us at all unless partnered with the right compounds.
Some heart-focused diets (including Esselstyn, McDougall, Pritikin, etc.) advocate avoiding ALL oils. Based on studies such as one that showed that olive oil actually damaged blood vessels, they recommend avoiding even extra virgin olive oil. That study, however, purposefully used refined olive oil to evaluate the effect of oleic acid, without “interference” from olive oil’s many antioxidants.
Most studies using extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), in contrast, show it to have many health benefits on circulation. This has led most scientists to the conclusion that olive oil is much, much more than a bottle of oleic acid.
And this conclusion is bolstered by a number of studies comparing the effect of EVOO with high oleic oils (HOO). In one study, HOO increased platelet aggregation (blood clumping) despite its vitamin E content, compared to EVOO. Another study found that a diet rich in EVOO reduced blood pressure in hypertensive women; HOO did not. Yet another, finding differences between EVOO and HOO, concluded that those differences explained EVOO’s ability to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis in healthy individuals.
Much of the comparative work being done at present is at a very basic level, focused on questions such as how do these oils affect VLDL triacylglycerols from hypertensive patients. The results are not easy for lay people to fully grasp but the studies do increasingly conclude that EVOO and HOO are not equivalent and have different effects. Increasingly the benefits of EVOO in terms of preventing free radical damage to food during cooking and processing are attributed to the unique compounds in EVOO, compounds completely absent from HOO.
In summary, these studies strongly suggest that high oleic oils may NOT be heart healthy at all. Admittedly, there are studies showing HOO to be beneficial but virtually all of those studies compare HOO with a diet rich in saturated fats, transfats, or refined, antioxidant-free olive oil. Those comparisons are not relevant, however, if your goal is to optimize your health. “Better than” something bad for you is not the same standard as “good for you.” Ultimately, the weight of the evidence, even at this early stage, is that the heavily manipulated, refined high oleic oil is NOT the way to go.
Oleic oils are NOT transfat free.
As the writing on the wall showed that the FDA planned to act on scientific opinion that there is NO safe level of transfats, food manufacturers began to do research and market analysis. The results revealed that consumers are swayed by packaging emblazoned with the words “Zero Transfats.” Producers concluded that the ability to market high oleic oils as GMO free AND transfat free was a huge marketing advantage.
Unfortunately, the FDA has not taken to heart the warning that there is no safe level of transfats. As long as a food contains less than 1% transfats per serving, the words “zero transfats” may be stamped in bold letters on a food package. All high oleic oils contain transfats at measurable levels but may state they contain zero transfats.
Let’s assume the HOO in your deli food has 0.5% transfats (quite within the range found) and you eat a couple of servings of deli food a day. Add some Amy’s organic pizza, some Whale Tail chips . . . well, who knows exactly how many unhealthy transfats you are burdening your body with.
Why are they switching to high oleic oils?
High oleic oils have the advantage of being stable at high heat, they do not blacken or smoke. Nor do they absorb flavors from foods fried in them. A deli can fry fish in the same oil that it fries french fries in without the fries tasting fishy. The oils also remain liquid at cold temperatures.
Olive oil, in contrast, solidifies when refrigerated. Many delis claim this to be the big advantage of using these fats. High oleics are used to avoid unsightly globs of olive oil on the salads. My olive oil mixed with vinegar, tossed on a salad, and refrigerated does not congeal noticeably and liquifies the minute I take it out of the fridge so I question this claim. I do suspect that the olive used in food preparation does solidify and slow the work process. But regardless, these seem flimsy reasons to switch to a high oleic fat.
I avoid high oleic oils because I prefer foods with a long history of use in the human diet. I think that is my best shot at getting healthy foods. As well, for personal, environmental, and political reasons, I would rather avoid plants that have been modified through bacterially induced DNA damage.
I am of the opinion that poorly extracted, refined, deodorized, and heavily processed oils are very hard on the body and need to be avoided. It took decades to show that the “healthy” better-than-butter-transfats our health food industry recommended we eat, in fact were killing people. I am not taking a chance that a few decades from now these refined, antioxidant-poor, “healthy” high oleic oils with their “low” amounts of transfats will prove to be a nightmare for the heart.
My choice is to make fresh, minimally processed EVOO my primary oil. That is what I look for in my store bought foods.
Unfortunately, almost all delis (conventional and health food) have switched to high oleic oils. Worse, knowingly or unknowingly, they are NOT following FDA recommendations and informing us, their customers, of this practice. The salad label simply says ” organic oIive and sunflower oil.” So be wary and inquire: These are likely blends of high oleic oils.
Quote from: http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/nutrition/ask/high_heat_oils.html
See also http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/products/deli/nutrition/product.php?plu=2349
Central Co-op and Metropolitan Market in Seattle label their high oleic blends similarly.
Organic heirloom tomatoes by mercedesfromtheeighties
Silenced- duct taped by Kristina Alexanderson
Is this safe? by N@ncy N@nce
Mazola corn oil “heart healthy” by Mike Mozart
Health food at Costco by Sandra Cohen-Rose
Olive oil by Matt Beldyk
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