Olive Oil and Fat-Soluble Vitamin Absorption

Do we need to include oils like olive oil in our diets? Those of us on a whole food, plant-based diet know the answer to that question, right? All of our gurus from Dr. Michael Greger to Dr. T. Colin Campbell to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn to Dr. John McDougall and so on, all advise against oil. All advocate for a low-fat diet. I've written about this before myself. See my blog posting Three Reasons for Not Including Olive Oil or Other Oils in a WFPB Diet to see why I think a WFPB diet is best done without oil. If you haven't read that blog posting, then I encourage you to follow the link and read it.

On the other side of the equation, however, are what many consider to be more mainstream nutritionists and dietitians. They tend to claim that it's healthy to eat certain oils like olive oil. In my blog post that's linked above, I give the reasons for not doing that.

But one reason that they say to eat olive oil keeps coming up again and again. And that's the idea that fat-soluble vitamins need to be consumed with fats in order to be absorbed by our bodies. Those vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. And that's the reason for pouring olive oil on a salad. As an example, vitamin A comes from beta carotene, which is present in carrots and other plants found in a salad. But some say that without fat to carry the vitamin A in the beta carotene from the carrot to our bloodstreams, then our bodies don't do a good job of absorbing the vitamin A.

Now, I don't claim to be a nutritionist, dietitian or a doctor, so I can't make any special claims about that. But here's what I do think that I know. And you, need to study it for yourself of course and make your own decisions.

And what I believe that I know is that fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic to our bodies and can even result in death if too much are absorbed. That's because our body stores these vitamins itself in our fat cells. And we all have some fat cells, no matter how skinny we are. And when the vitamins are needed, the fat cells release these fat-soluble vitamins to go out and do their job.

But if we absorb too many of these fat-soluble vitamins, then they end up accumulating in our body's fat cells and they then become toxic.

In a Special Collector's Edition of Scientific American that is titled "Secrets of Staying Young" and is available at news stands until June 2, 2015, there's a sidebar titled "When Vitamins Kill." The sidebar states that while eating lots of fruits and vegetables causes people to live longer and to be less likely to die from cancer, it does not follow that taking vitamin supplements will do the same thing. And in fact, it states, "The evidence shows that some people who take certain supplements are actually more likely to develop life-threatening illnesses, such as lung cancer and heart disease." Vitamins A and E were particularly culpable as stated in the sidebar.

Both vitamins are fat-soluble vitamins, and it seems to suggest that taking those vitamins in pill form may be loading up our fat cells with these vitamins and creating a toxic situation. That's my read on the article anyway.

So, if that's the case, why would we ever want to do something that would cause us to more efficiently absorb these fat-soluble vitamins? Could it be that maybe nature has packaged them in vegetables in a way that ensures that we get them in just the right amounts. And when we use a processed food like olive oil to artificially increase our absorption of these vitamins, we may be playing with fire.

So, besides the three reasons I gave in my previous blog posting on the subject, there is this fourth reason. And ironically, my fourth reason for not consuming olive oil (because it facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins) is also the same reason that other health professionals advocate for it. But as we know, too much of a good thing is not always good. And so, while the fat-soluble vitamins are good for us, too many aren't.

So, to put it simply, I don't want to mess with nature. I'll take my vitamins just as nature packages them for me.