Health and nutrition experts have been advising us for years to reduce our saturated fat intake, and instead choose "healthier" vegetable oil options. In his controversial new book Toxic Oil: Why Vegetable Oil Will Kill You and How to Save Yourself, David Gillespie turns this idea on its head, stating that "everything you believe about fat is wrong."
Gillespie has become something of a health crusader in Australia. He wrote his first book Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat, after his personal battle with an excess 40 kilos led him to explore the role of sugar in the ever-increasing weight of the Western world. Now, in Toxic Oil, he both alerts readers to the not so favourable truth behind vegetable and seed oils, and reframes the bad press that saturated fats have previously received. The book provides a background to food manufacturing, and food studies and research, and also highlights the implications of polyunsaturated fat intake on health. Additional chapters explore food labels, and recipes and meal plans geared to help you reduce polyunsaturated fats in your diet.
I think the key to Toxic Oil is not to take it too seriously, and to allow it to plant the seed that not everything the experts tell us should be taken as gospel - there are two sides to every coin, after all. For those who are not familiar with scientific jargon, this book may be difficult, in parts, to navigate, however, the overall gist will still be accessible. Gillespie's former career as a corporate lawyer provide him with practiced evidence gathering and analyse skills, however, I found myself dubious about his lack of health related experience or training. Additionally, health professionals will dislike the absence of referencing. That said, although health professionals have pooh-poohed his publications, he has enticed important public health debate.
The bottom line is that in our modern Western society, we eat far too much vegetable oil containing processed foods: cooking oil, margarine, fast food, spreads, sauces, snack-foods to name a few. While Toxic Oil is an interesting and informative read, I would suggest using it as a guide, rather than a prescription. It is a reminder that returning to the basic, natural, whole-food that our grandmothers ate, combined with a bit of common sense and moderation is, ultimately, the way to better health.
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