July 6, 2017
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Dr. Carney, I posed a question to you on the McDougall support group site and you suggested I post it here so here I go:

I want to better understand an issue with olive oil. First let me say I take the attitude that oils are not necessary for our health and are generally harmful. Most of the WFPB docs I follow agree that we should avoid all oils, even olive oil.  Here is the specific concept I want to understand. Dr. Goldner states that olive oil is not inflammatory as it is mostly an omega 9 fat. So for her patients fighting auto-immune diseases, she does not think olive oil contributes to their inflammation. While she states it is not inflammatory, she also states that it is not healthy. and should bascially be avoided.  She does see other oils as inflammatory.  Dr. Esselstyn states that no people with heart disease should ever have any oil, even olive oil, because it destroys the endothelium.  So here is what I want to know. When olive oil destroys the endothelium is that a response that does not involve inflammation. I am trying to understand this just for intellectual understanding. If you can help me understand it better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for encouraging me to post the question here and I look forward to hearing your response. -Denise from Happy Vegan Couple

6 years ago

Hi Denise,

Thank you for posting your question here on my forum.

Although olive oil may be less damaging than, for example, butter, that is not saying that olive oil is good for you.

Although certain components of olive may perform admirably on narrow-focus reductionist scientific tests, that does not mean that olive oil is beneficial to ingest. I agree with Dr. Brooke Goldner that we should not be ingesting organic EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).

Olive oil promotes atherosclerosis and we know that the atherogenic process is itself inflammatory. Therefore the parts of olive oil that contain saturated fat are the likely component that damages arteries using the mechanism of inflammation, despite the presence of some anti-inflammatory components present in that same dose of olive oil.

The overall effect is more inflammation, not less. The effect of the saturated fat outweighs the anti-inflammatory effects of the phenolic compounds. Even the oleocanthals, an anti-inflammatory compound found ONLY in olive oil, cannot prevent inflammation and atherosclerosis because of the saturated fat that comes along with it in that same oil.

Olive oil is named for the monounsaturated fat which is predominant, yet all oils have saturated fat in them, including EVOO or extra-virgin olive oil. A high-fat diet full of monounsaturated fat was fed to monkeys for 5 years, at which time their arteries showed wide-spread plugging of the arteries, called atherosclerosis.

The saturated fat in olive oil is inflammatory. That is why asthmatics cannot cure completely from asthma while using even tiny amounts of unheated EVOO. That was my experience. Although I was vegan, I still had asthma until 1 month after giving up olive oil completely. Avoiding organic EV olive oil even in crackers, bread, salad dressings, or baked goods was the ONLY way an asthmatic like me could find complete and long-lasting remission.

Although for some people, lipid profiles are not worsened by the use of olive oil, studies on African green monkeys (Chlorocebus species by Dr. Lawrence Rudel PhD of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC) show that atherosclerosis is worsened despite improved lipid blood profiles.

Many other studies have shown that inflammation is a major factor in the progression of atherosclerosis. The olive oil vendors at oliveoiltimes.com state that “Although all of the phenolic compounds in EVOO have known beneficial effects, one specific compound in particular, known as oleocanthal, has been discovered to have powerful natural anti-inflammatory benefits. ... And oleocanthal is unique only to olive oil. It is not found in any other vegetable oils.” Feb 19, 2016.

But it is well-known that modern science has a habit of isolating one component of a food, studying beneficial effects of that one component in isolation and then declaring the food good for health because of that one components favorable test results. However, that is marketing, not science.

True science finds out that populations live healthy lives in spite of small amounts of olive oil, not because of its inclusion.

Therefore, my conclusion is consistent with that of Dr. Brooke Goldner, for whom I have great respect. I agree that certain aspects (phenols, especially oleocanthals) of organic EVOO have demonstrated anti-inflammatory action when tested separately in isolated scientific tests. Nonetheless, organic EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) has an overall harmful effect on human health and should not be ingested. The mechanisms of harm are multiple, but when it comes to the endothelial cell, the saturated fat in EVOO is likely to be hurting the endothelial cells via inflammation.

I am indebted to the Pritikin Institute for gathering these studies I list here as references.
Source www.Pritikin.com

Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 1995; 15: 2101.
Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2003; 14 (1): 41.
British J of Nutr, 2004; 91 (6); 1013.
J Am Coll Card, 2000; 36: 1455.
J Am Coll Card, 2006; 48: 1666.
J Am Coll Nutr, 2007; 26: 163.
J Lipid Res, 2009; 50: 90.
Current Vascular Pharmacology, 2011; 9 (3): 281.
Am J Clin Nutr, 2007; 86: 1286.
J Am Coll Card, 2013; 61 (4): 427.
British Med J, 2009; 338: 2337.
New Engl J Med, 2003; 348: 2599.
New Engl J Med, 2003; 348-2595.
Makoto Suzuki, Bradley Wilcox, and Craig Wilcox. The Okinawa Program. Three Rivers Press: 2002.
Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. National Geographic: 2012.
Nature Medicine, 2014; 20: 193.
J Clin Invest, 1990; 85: 144.

Reference Articles: Is Oil Harmful to Health?

1. NO fiber
2. Addicting
3. Too dense in calories
4. Promotes acid reflux
5. Promotes Inflammation
6. Hurts the endothelial cells
7. So easily stored as adipose
8. Atherogenic; Raises lipid levels
9. Promotes cancer by raising estrogens
10. Just 100% fat; No protein or carbohydrate

All oils build up as intramyocellular lipid,
(thus blocking the doorway into the muscle cell) causing insulin resistance,
which leads to food cravings, weight gain, and Diabetes Type II.

Coconut oil contains more saturated fat than lard, which increases cancer risk, raises LDL-cholesterol, promotes inflammation, and is bad for the arteries and the heart.

Be Well,

Dr. Carney


Dr. Carney,  WOW, what an intellectually fulfilling response to my question!  First, I must just express my gratitude to you for your willingness to take the time to craft such a full response to my query. I am just so impressed that you, a medical doctor, will share such knowledge for free.  It is truly a gift and I am so thankful. To allow me to post on a forum like this is fantastic. Many WFPB doctors offer free knowledge as well but it is not so easy to always ask a question because you have to be on a live webinar with countless others and one's burning question easily gets passed over or is not able to receive a full response.  So this is why I am so happy for what you offer.

Your response has definitely allowed me to understand this issue more fully.  This whole olive oil issue can be so frustrating when trying to educate others on the best strategies for optimal health. I think any critical thinker must recognize that so much of the hype about the benefits of EVOO comes from marketing. As you show, the olive lobbying group tries to promote a reductionist mentality highlighting one component of olive oil, the anti-inflammatory oleocanthal, but negates the saturated fat component that is so dangerous to our health and in particular our vascular health, when we are talking about endothelium destruction. I am reminded of Dr. T. Colin Campbell's (Ph.D) book "Whole" when thinking about this issue of promoting isolated effects of plant chemicals, and not looking at how the complete food affects our bodies.  It was so interesting to learn of your own experience with even tiny bits of olive oil in packaged foods that caused lung inflammation resulting in asthmatic attacks. How wonderful that you were able to pinpoint this inflammatory reaction to the olive oil and could put yourself in remission.

Due to my fuller understanding, I am now better positioned to educate on this issue. And being a WFPB educator is my passion at this point in my life. Thank you again! 

6 years ago

I just read your reply to Dr. Carney while she is folding clothes and she loved it. Thank you so much for taking the time to express your gratitude. Share this site with as many people as you can! 

I am not sure if you read the story about Ken Thomas who has Type 1 Diabetes but he also has personal experiences with olive oil and how it causes insulin resistance that I believe you will find fascinating. Here is his story: https://www.drcarney.com/success/diabetes-success/ken-s-engineered-type-1-diabetes-whole-food-plant-based-low-fat-lifestyle

We have spawned a discussion on the subject because so many people were replying. That discussion is here: https://www.drcarney.com/discussions/1400-type-1-diabetes-helpful-support-discussions

I suspect you will find some good opportunites to do whole food plant based education on this web site as people frequently join and ask questions. Feel free to provide them the benefit of your experience. :-)

Sean Carney
Web Administrator


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