Oil, Fats, & Obesity

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D. www.drfuhrman.com

Extracted Oils Are Unnecessary And Can Be Very Unhealthful!

All oil is 100 percent fat and contains 120 calories per tablespoon. Fat is fattening, and it does it fast. Your body can store the fat you eat in your hips and belly within 10 minutes of consumption. “From your lips to your hips,” just like the reverse of liposuction. I call it dietary lipoaugmentation. A teaspoon of oil here, a tablespoon there, and the calories add up quickly. Ironically, even though oil is high in calories, it is very low in nutrients. The stories you hear about oil having substantive health benefits are 100 percent fantasy.

Americans consume large amounts of foods that use oils as a major ingredient, are cooked in oil, and/or have oils poured on top. Most Americans consume 300 to 500 calories from added oil per day. This can result in the consumption of over 100,000 extra calories each year. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves thicker around the middle?

A small amount of oil once in a while may present no danger to a physically active, thin person who eats a healthful diet, but because most Americans are overweight already, those extra calories can be life threatening. Remember, eating more calories than you need is a much bigger problem than simply having to buy larger, less form-fitting clothes. Being overweight inevitably will lead to a medical tragedy—such as diabetes, cancer, and/or heart attack—in your future. For example, medical studies show that for every 200 calories consumed over your basic needs each day, your long-term risk of cancer increases by 20 percent.1

How We Become Overweight

We become overweight by:

  1. consuming too many calories
  2. consuming low-volume calories (high calorie concentration per oz. and no fiber)
  3. consuming low-nutrient calories (high calorie concentration and few nutrients)

Since oil is high in calories, low in nutrients, and contains no fiber, it is the perfect food to help you put on unwanted and unhealthful pounds. No food can be considered healthful if its regular consumption causes you to become overweight.

Jars of oil do not grow on trees. Oil is a processed food, usually extracted from a plant with a petroleum chemical such as hexane. When you chemically extract oil from a whole food (such as olives and various nuts and seeds), you leave behind (lose) the vast majority of nutrients and end up with a fragmented food that contains little more than empty calories. In addition, the whole plant foods that contain fat also contain various fibers and an assortment of micronutrients (such as bioflavonoids) that help maintain the freshness of the fat. As soon as the oil is extracted from the plant, it begins to go rancid. Toxic byproducts also develop. Since the oxidation products of oils have been reported to have cytotoxic and mutagenic effects, the consumption of rancid oils and fats represents a possible health hazard for the population.2

You do need some fat in your diet. But when you consume whole foods, such as walnuts, sesame seeds, or flaxseed, instead of their extracted oils, you get all of the fibers, flavonoids, and nutrients they contain, as well as all of the positive health effects. When you eat unprocessed, unfragmented, whole foods, you take in fewer calories and get vastly more protective nutrients. For example, whole, unprocessed seeds provide folate, iron, calcium, niacin, lignans, and flavonoids; the oils from those seeds provide none of those.

Four Types Of Fats

There are four types of fats (fatty acids). All dietary fats (sometimes called triglycerides when they circulate in the bloodstream) are made from some mix of the 4 categories below. They are stored in the body in the same form that they were in when we consumed them.

The four types of fat are:

  1. saturated fatty acids (solid at room temperature)
  2. trans fatty acids (or hydrogenated oils) (solid at room temperature)
  3. monounsaturated fatty acids (liquid at room temperature)
  4. polyunsaturated fatty acids (liquid at room temperature)

While it is essential that your diet include some fat, there is no biological need for saturated fat or trans fat. Saturated fat and trans fat not only raise cholesterol and promote heart disease, they also promote cancer. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy and in some tropical oils, such as coconut and palm. They are solid at room temperature. A small amount of saturated fat in your diet is not dangerous, but consuming larger amounts of these fats raises cholesterol and promotes heart disease, especially if they are consumed in the context of a diet low in phytochemicals and antioxidants. Even though there is some evidence that the saturated fats in coconut oil are less heart disease promoting than saturated fats from animal products, they still cannot be considered beneficial. Less dangerous doesn’t mean “healthful.”


Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen bonds to polyunsaturated oil, making it biochemically resemble a saturated fat. The process converts a liquid oil to a solid one (such as margarine).The resulting product is artificially made saturated fat that contains disease-promoting properties similar to naturally occurring saturated fat. Despite this similarity, the growing awareness of problems associated with trans fat has not led to a corresponding disenchantment with saturated fat.

Today, trans fat has become a villain, and steps are being taken to ensure that no one consumes even a small amount of it. But no one seems at all concerned that a small piece of cheese can contain 25 grams of similarly harmful saturated fat. Dairy products, as a result of consumer advertising and government and academic approval influenced by powerful commercial interests, still hold an untouchable place in the hearts, minds, and dinner plates of most Americans. Sadly, this love of cheese contributes to a tremendous amount of needless ill health, pain and suffering, and premature death.

Some unsaturated fats are essential and are needed for proper formation of cell structure, hormone production and regulation, and immune function. You need about 25 grams of fat per day for good health. An overweight person need not consume this much fat because they already have fat in storage on their body that can be utilized. The average (fat) American consumes over 100 grams of fat daily.


1. Frankel S; Gunnel DJ; Peters TJ; et al. Childhood energy intake and adult mortality from cancer. BMJ. 1998;316(7130):499-504.

2. Perjesi P; Pinter Z; Gyongyi Z; Ember I. Effect of rancid corn oil on some onco/suppressor gene expressions in vivo. A short-term study. Anticancer Res. 2002 Jan-Feb;22(1A):225-30.

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