Clean eating versus industry

May 7, 2016 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Clean eating versus industry

“Margarine is an imitation butter spread used for spreading, baking, and cooking… Hippolyte Mège – Mouriès created it in France, in 1869. He was responding to a challenge by Emperor Napoleon III to create a butter substitute for the armed forces and lower classes. It was later named margarine. Whereas butter is made from the butterfat of milk, modern margarine is made mainly from refined vegetable oil and water, and may also contain milk ‘ [partial] hydrogenation converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi – solid fats, such as those present in margarine” Wikipedia

During the eighties and nineties here in the UK we were broadly encouraged to eat lower fat spreads such as margarine, associated with a push for polyunsaturated fat consumption. With hindsight, but moreover the logic that many have applied for some time now, the Margarine versus Olive Oil battle can be seen as a lesson regarding clean eating logic. That we ever thought that an industrial food such as margarine could improve upon the butter our ancestors spread on their loaves, or more so the olive oil that the mediterraneans dipped it in, should now at least be seen to have been foolhardy. The fact that public health and governmental support was given to these products disappoints greatly. Government health advice still promotes unsaturated/ low fat oils and spreads whilst virgin olive oil per se is not promoted. Actually, it is industrial trans (partially hydrogenated) fat which is the real villain of the piece. [1,2 ] Saturation of fats is perhaps a side issue at best. Thus, there has thankfully albeit slowly been a movement worldwide away from industrially produced fats and oils and towards natural products – often of the monounsaturated variety. For the readership who have not studied chemistry, saturation in this context refers to whether carbon atoms are ‘saturated’ (bonds to other atoms are exhausted) versus ‘unsaturated’ where there is a free bond (monounsaturated) or free bonds (polyunsaturated). Really, the monounsaturated nature of the Mediterranean diet should have resulted in the majority questioning the pro – polyunsaturate advice from experts long ago. The fact that margarine is an imitation butter produced industrially should have been a clue.

In atherosclerotic ischaemic coronary artery disease, plaques with lipid components form in the small arteries which supply the heart muscles, reducing the blood supply to the heart muscle pump. As well as increased levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), reduced levels of good cholesterol (HDL), reduced activity levels, inflammation, infection [3] and oxidative stress [4] are all implicated. It its perhaps therefore unsurprising that virgin olive oils, with anti – inflammatory , anti – oxidant and anti – microbial properties [5] are the logical choice for clean eaters wishing to optimise their heart’s health. Moreover, oxidative stress is implicated in a range of diseases from coronary artery disease to cancer [6] and the feature of virgin olive oils that we have known about for some time now is its antioxidant properties. It is therefore surprising that the same level of health promotion that was bestowed upon polyunsaturated products in the 80s and 90s is not presently enjoyed by virgin olive oils. As we have discussed previously in relation to health more generally, science and the evidence base should be used as a guide but may not always be able to give us a specific road map towards our own personal health, let alone the health of humanity. But the bigger picture in relation to clean versus industrial frying, oils and fats is as follows. From being a negative which at best we have sought to mitigate against health wise, oil of the extra virgin olive variety may indeed be a therapeutic as well as culinary choice. And with no obvious negatives we know of at the time of writing.

Food dogma says virgin olive oils are not good frying oils. This author and his associates have used virgin olive oils for domestic frying for at least a couple of decades. Despite an apparent majority gastronomic and food industry viewpoint, to the contrary smoking points of virgin olive oils are not an issue in domestic frying, in my experience. Taste remains as good as ever and smoking has not been observed, even with deep frying over prolonged periods. All oils degrade and react as they are heated, but I have not seen any evidence this is more of an issue with virgin olive oils. Industrial frying is a distant relative of domesticated frying and it may be that industry cannot fry with virgin olive oils, this is in terms of the nature of industrial frying and the economic pressures. Really we should ask if industrial frying is something we as individuals wish to choose for ourselves and our families. Virgin olive oil is rich in compounds such as phenols, which are the predominant source of its trinity of anti-oxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Frying with Extra Virgin Olive oil makes logical sense, is evidence based [7 – 10] and there are no practical issues with domestic deep frying using virgin olive oils that this author has encountered. Whether the food industry would transition from industrially produced oils and fats well suited to their industrial processes will be seen over time, rather than (fried) food being a source of disease it could become a source of health for humanity.

Clean breathing versus industry; development and health; global warming versus pollution

Just as clean eating and the food industry are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the importance of industry for the evolution of humanity does not necessarily preclude clean breathing. Jeremy Corbyn recently in PMQs pressed the Prime Minister on air quality issues. The green movement, and the majority of people nowadays, are more concerned with carbon dioxide than any other industrial byproduct. As such, the balance of risks and benefits always seems to be skewed away from fossil fuels, certainly according to the majority viewpoint nowadays. As such, the right to cheap energy we enjoyed in our own industrial revolution is denied to the developing world. The question is whether such a denial will have negative or positive effects on humanity as a whole. I do not intend to launch into the climate change issue, but would like to make some points that we may forget about with the weight of majority opinion on the subject.

  1. Water vapour is an abundant ‘greenhouse’ gas

  1. The role of the sun in global temperature fluctuation is often forgotten and almost certainly requires further study

  1. The climate has always changed, not least prior to the industrial revolution

  1. In the recent past, the expected increase in global temperatures has not been realised.

6CO2 + 6H2O —— > C6H12O6 + 6O2

Finally, as per the above equation, carbon dioxide cannot really be considered a pollutant in the traditional sense since it is required for photosynthesis by plant life. Nuclear, wind and solar energy all have negatives. But moreover, in terms of clean breathing, biomass and wood burning worldwide are significantly implicated in respiratory disease.

MQ Bismil is a medically qualified and surgically trained; writer and thinker. He has been commissioned to write a series entitled Health And Humanity for the London Progressive Journal in 2016. His views are his obviously own and unrelated to his medical practice. In this series, the generality of health is discussed: please do not construe this as specific health advice, and please consult a physician if you wish to consider making changes to your lifestyle.


  1. de Souza RJ, Mente A, Maroleanu A, Cozma AI, Ha V, Kishibe T, Uleryk E, Budylowski P, Schünemann H, Beyene J, Anand SS . Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta – analysis of observational studies.BMJ. 2015 Aug 11;351:h3978. doi: 10.1136/ bmj .h3978.

  1. Markey O, Vasilopoulou D, Givens DI, Lovegrove JA. Dairy and cardiovascular health: Friend or foe Nutr Bull. 2014 Jun;39(2):161 – 171.

  1. Ford PJ, Yamazaki K, Seymour GJ. Cardiovascular and oral disease interactions: what is the evidence? Prim Dent Care. 2007 Apr;14(2): 59 – 66.

  1. Lubrano V, Balzan S. Enzymatic antioxidant system in vascular inflammation and coronary artery disease. World J Exp Med. 2015 Nov 20;5(4):218 – 24. doi: 10.5493/wjem.v5.i4.218. eCollection 2015.

  1. Cicerale S, Lucas LJ, Keast RS. Curr Opin Biotechnol. Antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti – inflammatory phenolic activities in extra virgin olive oil. 2012 Apr;23(2):129 – 35. doi: 10.1016/ j .copbio.2011.09.006. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

  1. Simone Reuter , Subash C. Gupta , Madan M. Chaturvedi , Bharat B. Aggarwal. Oxidative stress, inflammation , and cancer: How are they linked? Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 1 December 2010, Vol.49(11):1603 – 1616, doi:10.1016/ j .freeradbiomed.2010.09.006

  1. Sacchi R, Paduano A, Savarese M, Vitaglione P, Fogliano V. Extra virgin olive oil: from composition to “molecular gastronomy”. Cancer Treat Res. 2014;159:325 – 38. doi: 10.1007/978 – 3 – 642 – 38007 – 5_19.

  2. Perez РHerrera A, Rangel РZu̱iga OA, Delgado РLista J, Marin C, Perez РMartinez P, Tasset I, Tunez I, Quintana РNavarro GM, Lopez РSegura F, Luque de Castro MD, Lopez Miranda J, Camargo A, Perez РJimenez F. The antioxidants in oils heated at frying temperature, whether natural or added, could protect against postprandial oxidative stress in obese people. Food Chem. 2013 Jun 15;138(4):2250 Р9. doi: 10.1016/ j .foodchem.2012.12.023. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

  1. Sies H, Stahl W, Sevanian A. Nutritional, dietary and postprandial oxidative stress. J Nutr. 2005 May;135(5):969 – 7

  2. Jessica del Pilar Ramírez – Anaya , Cristina Samaniego – Sánchez Ma. , Claudia Castañeda Saucedo , Marina Villalón – Mir , Herminia López – García de la Serrana. Phenols and the antioxidant capacity of Mediterranean vegetables prepared with extra virgin olive oil using different domestic cooking techniques. 1 December 2015, Vol.188:430 – 438, doi:10.1016/ j .foodchem.2015.04. 124

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This post was written by MQ Bismil

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