Why Eating Out in Hong Kong Could be Damaging to Your Health Part 1 – The History of Hidden Toxic Cooking Oils

Why Eating Out in Hong Kong Could be Damaging to Your Health

Part 1 – The History of Hidden Toxic Cooking Oils

Date 31/12/19

Written by: Miles Price, Functional Medicine Practitioner & Clinical Nutritionist

We all love exploring the variety of eateries in Hong Kong, to tantalize our taste buds to dizzying heights and to promote our wonderful experiences to friends and colleagues on the media platforms. But have you ever wondered if that tastiest of morsels could be actually damaging to your health?

Insidiously our favorite dishes could inadvertently be causing a slow but deliberate process of oxidative damage to our tissues and organs, setting ourselves up for chronic diseases later in life.

Both in Western and Asian kitchens, the ubiquitous use of cheap and yet dangerous cooking oils in a variety of dishes fulfills the needs of the ever tightening bottom line of the restaurant trade, but it does nothing to support our cholesterol or blood sugar regulation profiles, let alone the oxidative markers.

The historic use of these cooking oils started many years ago, back in the late 60s and 70s when people started hearing the now debunked claims that ‘saturated fats are bad for you, and the newly developed polyunsaturated fats like sunflower, canola and soyabean oils are good for you’. No one ever doubted these claims as they were stated from respected scientists who had done so-called effective scientific studies.

But then things started to go awry when statistics of heart disease, cancer and diabetes started to rise during this period and a small group of scientists started to question whether these oils were actually good for us.

The F&B industry was hoodwinked into switching the fats they traditionally used for cooking like butter, lard, ghee, called saturated fats, to using the polyunsaturated oils. Supporting this transition was the influential agricultural lobby whose objective was to stimulate the demand and use of the oils farmers were growing, which included rapeseed oil. However, this break crop in its unadulterated form contains erucic acid, which is toxic and related to Keshan disease. So, the agronomists started working on a safer alternative – a low erucic acid rapeseed oil which can be used in the food industry – and a brand name was launched, called Canola oil. Not to be outdone, other oil manufacturers also started adding to the polyunsaturated craze by producing soyabean, sunflower and safflower oils, to give consumers a greater choice to cook with.

Additional products spawned from these oils including margarines, which is usually a combination of the above oils, with the added processes of hydrogenation, bleaching and deodorizing to make a toxic trans-fat. This so-called ‘healthy oil’ was used throughout the 80’s 90’s and 00’s before consumers started reading scientific press about the damaging effects of trans-fats and the increased risk of dementia, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Even in the innocuous pastry industry, its delightful croissants, cakes, pastries were made with margarines and thus the risk of chronic diseases spread across a variety of food products.

But what’s the deal with fats? Why is there so much confusion behind this major nutrient? Continue to Part 2 of Why Eating Out in Hong Kong Could be Damaging to Your Health here

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