Health & Fitness

What’s up with that study dissing vegetable oils?

Q: I read that vegetable oils are bad for your heart and that even if they lower your cholesterol, you will die sooner than if you ate saturated fats. Is the whole “vegetables are good for you” thing a myth? -- Charles O., Lafayette, Indiana

A: Nutritional science has shown us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that veggies are nature’s gift; they’re loaded with phytochemicals that our brain, some organ systems and all of our cells need to thrive. So no wonder it’s confusing when headlines recently declared that vegetable oils could kill you!

That news was generated because of a new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health who did a deep dive into data collected by the 1968 to 1973 Minnesota Coronary Experiment. What they found was that even though study participants -- in a nursing home and six state mental institutions -- who ate fats from vegetable oils (primarily linoleic acid from corn oil and corn oil polyunsaturated margarine) lowered their cholesterol by around 14 percent, they didn’t have lower rates of heart attack, and often died sooner than folks in the study control group, who ate a diet high in saturated fat from animal fats, common margarines and shortenings.

But the study doesn’t tell us whether the folks on the veg-oil diet plan ate heart-destroying trans fats (made from hydrogenated vegetable oils) in baked goods and margarines. And we know they reduced their artery-clogging sat fat intake only 50 percent, while increasing linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) intake 280 percent! Too much omega-6 (and too little omega-3) in this analysis of 50-year-old data seems to be associated with bodywide inflammation and heart woes.

So what’s the bottom line? Eat five to nine servings of veggies and fruits and two servings of 100 percent whole grains daily; no trans fats; no red or processed meats; and choose lean proteins like walnuts, skinless poultry and salmon, ocean trout, sardines or anchovies, which are rich in omega-3s. And stick with olive, canola and safflower oil; they’re lowest in omega-6.

Q: I’m training for a multiple sclerosis fundraising bike ride. But all that riding is causing chafing down you-know-where. I read in a magazine that women are having surgery so they can ride more comfortably. Is that really necessary? -- Laurie G., Richmond, Virginia

A: We believe the surgery you are referring to is labiaplasty (it reduces the size of the labia minora). But there’s no need to make surgery your first choice for dealing with seat discomfort. Any experienced rider will tell you (and guys, this is for you too!), “Get well-padded riding shorts!” They come with gel or foam pads of various thicknesses and density.

Second, for any ride longer than a few miles, always apply a thick lotion or a lubricant (they have names like Chamois Butt’r, Bodyglide -- even KY-Jelly works) to your crotch area. Make sure your seat is the right height and the right level front to back. You can invest in an ergonomic bike seat with cutouts designed to relieve pressure on the crotch and gel pads that fit over bike seats.

If you’ve exhausted those options, or if you have a condition known as labial hypertrophy or an enlarged labia, and you still want to bike, then talk to your doc about the surgical option. This procedure is considered a minor operation, and the health benefits of staying on the bike may outweigh the surgical risks. A study last year looked at the muscle strength, lung power and exercise capacity of folks ages 55-79 who could bike 100 kilometers (62 miles) in 6.5 hours or 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) in 5.5 hours. Even their rate of oxygen consumption didn’t provide a clue to age. In other words, scientists couldn’t tell the difference between bikers who were 55 and those who were 79! Talk about a younger RealAge! So find the right solution for you (maybe a different sport), and raise lots of money for MS!

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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