Designer Salad & Cooking Oil Interview

Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw's® Formula
High Oleic Sunflower Oil

ll fats are not alike. More specifically, all cooking, baking and salad oils are not only not alike, they cover a health terrain that ranges from the desert to the tropics. Some edible oils are very bad for you, even in moderate amounts, and others are good, embracing not only health but the very joy and essence of the sanctity of food. When food really tastes good, life is somehow more complete. Sorting out this information has not always been easy, but leave it to scientists Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw to come up with a very clear explanation about what constitutes the best oils and what to do about it. In this interview you will learn very important information that can change your life for the better and reduce the unhealthy risks that so many of us easily fall into when we're not aware of the dangers that lurk in the most unsuspecting foods.

WILL: What's the story behind your High Oleic Sunflower OilTM?

DURK: The reason we developed our own cooking oil is because we weren't satisfied with what was on the market. So we set out to answer the question of what should and shouldn't be in cooking and salad oils. First, you want relatively large amounts of the monounsaturated oleic acid. This is because it's been found that, of the predominant fats in LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol), oleic acid is a lot more resistant to auto-oxidation than polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats are those with two or more double bonds, making them highly susceptible to free-radical damage. Monounsaturated fats are those with one double bond, making them much less a threat.

In human epidemiological studies, scientists have found that diets high in oleic acid (such as the famous mediterranean diet) are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than diets with a similar amount of other fats. The oleic acid is less atherogenic than that found in many saturated fats such as palmitic acid or myristic acid. So ideally, what you want in a cooking and salad oil is something that has a lot of oleic acid but has very little saturated fat. But also, you don't want a lot of the omega-6 polyunsaturates. Most Americans are getting far too much in the way of omega-6 polyunsaturates. (You also need essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as those found in fish oils, borage oil, evening primrose oil and so forth. But that's not what you get in most of these vegetable oils.)

So, it turns out that some clever genetic engineers modified sunflowers, which normally produce an oil very high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which are highly subject to free radical auto-oxidation. They modified sunflowers to produce High Oleic Sunflower Oil. They did this by eliminating the genes that turn the oleic acid into linoleic and linolenic acid, which are the polyunsaturated fats usually found in sunflower oil.

The rate of free radical attack on a polyunsaturated fat is substantially higher than on a monounsaturated fat such as oleic acid. Compared with oleic acid, linoleic acid is about four times more susceptible to free-radical attack than oleic, and linolenic is about nine times more so. If you compare this information to other types of fats that are currently on the market, the quality of our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is amazing. [See chart.]

Our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is at least 85% oleic. There's less than 5% linoleic acid and less than 8% saturated fats. There's essentially no linolenic acid, which is the triply-polyunsaturated omega-6 fat. The next best oil is olive oil, which has 70% monounsaturates and about 16% linoleic polyunsaturates, which is doubly unsaturated, and 14% saturates. So we have less of the undesirable and more of the desirable.

Going down from there you have canola, which runs 58% monounsaturates, and then peanut oil - which we do not recommend because in some animal experiments it has been found to be atherogenic - at 48% monounsaturates, lard at 47% monounsaturates, on down the line. A lot of these have very high levels of saturated fats, such as the lard oil for example. Safflower oil is fairly popular, which is, in our opinion, unfortunate because safflower oil has only 13% monounsaturates, but it has 78% linoleic and 9% saturates. Also popular is soybean oil containing only 24% monounsaturates, but it has 54% linoleic polyunsaturates, 7% linolenic polyunsaturates, and 15% saturates. Beyond these, there's corn oil with only 25% monounsaturates, but it has 61% linoleic, 1% linolenic and 13% saturates. Remember that linoleic is doubly polyunsaturated and linolenic is triply polyunsaturated. The idea is to maximize your monounsaturates and minimize your polyunsaturates - especially those with more than two double bonds - and minimize your saturates.

SANDY: Our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is actually the most stable, edible oil on the market that is not high in saturated fat and has not been hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is a process whereby some of the unsaturated bonds in vegetable oils are converted to saturated bonds to help protect against flavor deterioration caused by free radical oxidation. Hydrogenation also results in the formation of trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids increase LDL while decreasing HDL (the "good" cholesterol). Studies have found trans-fatty acids to be associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease. Our trans-fatty acid-free High Oleic Sunflower Oil is also very low in saturated fats and contains increased amounts of vitamin E which we add to it. But we also add something else, which is quite extraordinary.

DURK: We also add tocotrienols. Fortunately, tocotrienols have become commercially available recently. The tocotrienols are natural analogs of vitamin E which have flexible tails, making them able to diffuse along membranes much more readily. Hence, tocotrienols are much more powerful than regular vitamin E at intercepting free radicals in cell membranes.

WILL: How do you use your High Oleic Sunflower Oil?

We add alpha-tocopherol and tocotrienols -
powerful natural antioxidants.

DURK: You can use High Oleic Sunflower Oil as you would any all-purpose cooking, baking and salad oil. You can use it for frying, for baking, or for salad dressing just like you would olive oil. In other words, use it just exactly as you would olive oil, except that High Oleic Sunflower Oil has a whole lot more tocotrienols and monounsaturates in it and less saturated and polyunsaturated fats. So, it really is almost ideal for eating. The only oils it doesn't contain that you should have are the omega-3 fatty acids, which you get primarily from fish, particularly the eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). These oils are very unstable, so you wouldn't want to cook with them.

WILL: How stable is High Oleic Sunflower Oil at high temperatures? In the Far East, India and China for example, there have been some studies showing that there is a great deal of health difference when cooking with different oils at high temperatures.

DURK: The more polyunsaturated the oil, the more problems you're going to have with high temperature cooking, particularly in a wok where you have a large area exposed to air. Unfortunately for users of soybean oil - which is 24% monounsaturates, 54% linoleic and 7% linolenic - high temperatures mean increased susceptibility to oxidation. Now, of course, one way of avoiding the problem of auto-oxidation in wok cooking is to use completely saturated fats. That, however, has other problems with the atherosclerotic effects of the palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids that you find in saturated fats. Particularly the palmitic and myristic.

WILL: You mentioned soybean oil several times, which seems to be the universal oil used for canned products.

DURK: Yes, that's the least expensive one.

In epidemiological studies, scientists have
found that diets high in oleic acid are
associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular
disease than diets with a similar
amount of other fats.

WILL: It's in everything. Then there is another oil that you didn't mention, linseed oil. And it's often mixed with soybean oil.

DURK: Linseed oil is a little bit different. It has a high concentration of polyunsaturates in it, but the seed meal also has significant amounts of lignans - which can have healthful benefits. Lignans are a type of polyphenol. Also, linseed oil has omega-3 fats in it as well, which are essential fatty acids. However, the problem with linseed oil is that it is extremely subject to auto-oxidation. It's what's called a drying oil. The old oil-based paints are primarily based on linseed oil.

And when linseed oil paint dries, it is not due to the evaporation of the turpentine present. It dries due to free-radical polymerization and auto-oxidation of the linseed oil. The result is the formation of a polymer, a type of plastic. This is exactly what happens when gasoline auto-oxidizes and polymerizes and creates a gum substance in your carburetor from gasoline in an engine that's been sitting for a long time. This can happen to seasonal equipment such as lawn mowers or jet skis. In linseed oil paint, the polymerized oil holds the pigment in place on the canvas or wall.

WILL: And it produces a lot of heat in the process of doing that as well. That's why rags, for example, in a bucket or a confined area with linseed oil in it can ...

DURK: ... can spontaneously combust and burn down your house or your garage. It is not wise, when using an oil-based paint, to leave paint-soaked rags in a pile in the corner, especially in a pile where the heat can build up internally. We're talking about very rapid auto-oxidation, which is quite spontaneously combustible.

So ideally, what you want in a cooking and
salad oil is something that has a lot of oleic
acid but has very little saturated fat.

WILL: That's a metaphor for what it can do in your body, in a sense, as well.

DURK: It certainly is.

WILL: Eat the wrong oil and you essentially have internal free radical combustion in your body.

DURK: Right. Incidentally, for people using woks, I would recommend a stainless steel version rather than an ordinary iron wok. Free iron is a very powerful free radical oxidation catalyst. A Teflon-lined wok is okay if you are careful not to overheat it (not allowing the temperature of the wok to rise above 450° Fahrenheit).

WILL: I'm constantly surprised to see canola oil in health food stores, touted because of its higher level of monounsaturates. However, canola oil has something in it that's particularly bad, which is a high content of the triply-unsaturated fatty acids.

The idea is to maximize your monounsaturates
and minimize your omega-6 polyunsaturates,
especially those with more than two
double bonds, and minimize your saturates.

DURK: First of all, canola oil has only 58% monounsaturated fats instead of the 85%+ in our High Oleic Sunflower Oil. Twenty-six percent of canola oil is doubly-unsaturated linoleic, compared to less than 5% of the same in our High Oleic Sunflower Oil. Finally, canola has 10% triply-unsaturated linolenic compared to none detectable in our product. The reason that our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is so doggoned stable, even though it has less than 8% saturated fats, is because it has essentially no triply-unsaturated fats in it.

WILL: In soybean oil that's pot-distilled to produce vitamin E - meaning, natural vitamin E capsules - a lot of residues are found, such as, an inordinately high proportion of phytoestrogens, which may be good, but only up to a certain concentration. Can residues be a problem in some of the oils we're talking about?

DURK: It depends on how they're made. Cold-pressed oils, made by pressing but no processing or application of heat, are more likely to have things like phytoestrogens. Whether they're good or bad depends on exactly what the environment is and what a person is wanting to gain from using a particular oil. The phytoestrogens contained in soy, for example, may be able to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. On the other hand, the typical types of oils available for purchase are not cold-pressed; therefore, most of the commercially-available oils do not have a significant amount of any phytoestrogens.

WILL: Speaking of cold, your oil is winterized. What does this mean?

DURK: There are various waxes and sterols that can precipitate out when an oil is chilled (as it would be in a refrigerator). Winterization is a process where oils are first subjected to cold and then filtered, removing the wax and sterol gunk. The result is a clear or hazy product that pours when just removed from the refrigerator. You don't end up with an opaque viscous mass in the bottle in your refrigerator.

Our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is actually
the most stable, edible oil on the market that
is not high in saturated fat and has
not been hydrogenated.

WILL: I've noticed that while olive oil often turns into a solid under refrigeration, your High Oleic Sunflower Oil remains clear and readily pourable. Meaning you don't have to take it out and leave it at room temperature to liquefy. It remains in liquid form.

DURK: Yes, that is because of its extremely low saturated fat content. It really is a superior oil for anything that you would use an edible oil for, whether it's baking, cooking or putting it on your salad. Especially since we've added more vitamin E and tocotrienols, you can't beat our High Oleic Sunflower Oil.

WILL: How much tocotrienols would a person get in an average diet if they are not eating, say, wheat germ oil or wheat germ?

DURK: You're not likely to get very much. Since the total amount a person gets per day of all tocopherols from an average diet is probably 10-20 mg, tocotrienols ingestion is probably no more than about one mg/day or less. Which is a shame, because tocotrienols are very effective antioxidants.

WILL: What is your thinking, currently, on the total amount of fat in a diet? What amount of that should involve the use of an oil such as your High Oleic Sunflower Oil?

Eat the wrong oil and you essentially have
internal free radical combustion in your body.

DURK: Other than getting adequate amounts of EPA and DHA, which are omega-3 polyunsaturates from fish oil (with 5 or 6 double bonds, respectively), I think that most of a person's fat in their diet should be a monounsaturated fat, of which oleic is thought to be the best. Also, I think that in terms of the total amount of fat in a diet, for most people, 20-30% is reasonable. If you go below 20% of dietary fat intake, some people react to it with a dramatic drop in their protective HDL cholesterol. Other people might not - there are genetic differences to consider. Some people can tolerate very low fat diets better than others. Remember the old story about Jack Sprat and his wife: Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean. Well, there really is some truth to that genetically.

Some people are intolerant of very low fat diets, with respect to protective HDL cholesterol. Their HDL levels dive. So if a person really wants to reduce the fat in their diet substantially below 30%, they'd be wise to have a lipid panel done to find out how much HDL cholesterol they have first. Then, a few months after going on that low-fat diet, their HDL should be re-checked to see what it looks like.

WILL: Should the amount of fat intake vary depending on the level of a person's physical activity? Is it better, for example, because of the high concentration of energy in fat for someone who's bodybuilding rigorously to eat more fat as a percentage of their total caloric intake?

DURK: You can certainly burn up more fat when bodybuilding. Also, one of the nice things about using fat for energy is that you don't produce a lot of the nitrogen waste that you get from burning a lot of protein. A diet in the 20 to 30% fat range is easier on your kidneys whereas, a high-protein diet is tougher on your kidneys. I just can't help but wonder with some of these bodybuilders who eat 300 grams of protein a day, how their kidneys are going to be when they're 80 years old.

On the other hand, fats are very effective at making you fat. They can be incorporated into your stored triglycerides very efficiently. Therefore, make sure that if you're going to have a lot of fat in your diet, you're physically active enough to burn it off. Fat burning also occurs when you are exposed to cold. For example, I've heard that mountain climbers and long distance swimmers can't get enough calories out of anything except high-fat foods.

Our High Oleic Sunflower Oil contains
tocotrienols which are much more powerful
than regular vitamin E for intercepting
free radicals in cell membranes.

WILL: Is that one of the reasons why mountain climbers eat high-fat concentrated bars?

DURK: Yes, and also just look at traditional Inuits (Eskimos) eating whale blubber. If Inuits eat the same amount of fat in their diet at a lower latitude (especially without hard physical labor) they are likely to get really fat. Whereas, up North, diet is a totally different issue. You have a tremendous amount of heat loss when you're working outside; which, of course, Inuits had to do traditionally.

WILL: Back to the negative influences of having too little fat in one's diet, less than 20% of total calories. Isn't there also some connection between serotonin production and low fat in the diet?

DURK: There's a lot of data to suggest that, in both animals and human beings, as the amount of fat goes down in the diet, the amount of serotonin in the brain goes down. This has been verified by measuring the serotonin metabolite 5HIAA in the cerebral spinal fluid. In fact, if you put monkeys on a diet where they get plenty of calories, plenty of carbohydrates, but not enough fat, they get nasty and more aggressive. They end up with more fights.

WILL: This really is counter to the argument put forward by certain neuroscientists who are selling carbohydrate formulations for weight loss and for serotonin-production purposes. It would seem to me that if it's going to be of value - especially without any tryptophan in the formulation - you have to take total fat consumption into consideration as well.

The reason that our High Oleic Sunflower Oil
is so doggoned stable, even though it only
has less than 8% saturated fats, is because it
has essentially no triply-unsaturated fats in it.

DURK: That's right. Diet has complicated effects on a person's mental biochemistry.

WILL: Very interesting.

DURK: But not too surprising. After all, the brain is the fattiest organ in the body besides actual fat stores.

WILL: What about the gourmet quality of this High Oleic Sunflower Oil?

DURK: It has a very delicate, light flavor. If you like the flavor of olive oil, you won't be getting that here. However, if you mix in a little bit of the dark olive oil (the first cold pressed oil, which has the heaviest flavor) you can achieve more of an olive oil flavor - especially for something like toasted bread sticks. On the flip side, if people want the health benefits of olive oil, without the olive oil flavor, this will do it. This has a very neutral, light flavor. Anybody who has ever eaten sunflower seeds has an idea of what sunflower oil tastes like.

If you want something with a light delicate
flavor, our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is
really hard to beat because it doesn't
overwhelm even very delicate flavors.

WILL: I love olive oil, and I keep a bottle of gourmet olive oil in the fridge. Yet there are some foods that taste superior when using High Oleic Sunflower Oil such as vegetable dishes or delicate fish or fowl. Some food preparations are really outstanding.

DURK: If you want something with a light flavor, our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is really hard to beat because it doesn't overwhelm even very delicate flavors.

WILL: It has an element of delicate sweetness that's quite fine and, of course, when it comes to health it's beyond anything else out there.

DURK: Remember, our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is not hydrogenated and so it doesn't have any trans-fats at all; zero, zilch!

WILL: This is something that's finally shown up, you even see it blaring out on hang-tags on the supermarket shelves these days: "no trans-fatty acids." Yet it's now being offered by many of the same producers that produced or used nothing but trans-fatty acids in the past.

DURK: Yes, people do learn. Just remember our High Oleic Sunflower Oil has the highest monounsaturated oleic acid content, over 85%, of any commercially available oil. It has the highest stability and is lower in saturated and polyunsaturated fats than any commercially available oil. Also it contains no trans-fats and is not hydrogenated. The work that resulted in the development of our High Oleic Sunflower Oil is as valid today as it was several years ago. It is exactly what the scientists who created High Oleic Sunflower Oil intended it to be: a designer oil.

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