Dr. Oz Gets it Really Wrong About Pumpkin Seed Oilhealthy fats
On the Dr. Oz show last week, Dr. Oz shared two of his “best kept health secrets”. While I did not watch the show myself (I’ve only watched 2 of his shows ever), several readers emailed me about it and I confirmed the topic selection by checking his blog post of the same day. Apparently, Dr. Oz is now a big fan of pumpkin seed oil.
In fact, he is so taken with this supposed “health secret” that he described pumpkin seed oil as being in the same league with coconut oil and olive oil.
Not sure what planet Dr. Oz is coming from with that statement, but he sure isn’t in Kansas anymore!
Here’s what he had to say about pumpkin seed oil in his blog post:
“My next health secret can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s a cooling oil that has joined the ranks of olive and coconut oil at promoting longevity. It’s pumpkin seed oil. It has a nice nutty flavor with earthy tones. Not only is it a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, it’s also been shown to lower blood pressure and increase HDL or good cholesterol. The essential fatty acids also work with the HDL to lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Use pumpkin seed oil with some fresh lemon, ginger and garlic to make your own salad dressing. You can also use it as a garnish for starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes or use as a substitute for butter.”
Dr. Oz clearly does none of his own research before putting out this type of confusing and extremely misleading health information. Lower blood pressure, cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease? Talk about being stuck in a 1950’s mental time warp.
Cholesterol level is not a good indicator of heart disease risk and many doctors and researchers are now actually warning people about the dangers of lowering cholesterol. In fact, it is a complete MYTH that people with high cholesterol are more prone to heart attacks!
The truth is that young and middle-aged men with cholesterol levels over 350 are only slightly more at risk for heart attacks. Those who have cholesterol levels just below 350 are at no greater risk than those whose cholesterol is very low. For elderly men and for women of all ages, high cholesterol is associated with a longer lifespan.
Pumpkin Seed Oil Full of “Good” Fats? Not So
Regarding Dr. Oz’s assertion that pumpkin seed oil is a good source of omega-3 fats – I found very conflicting information on this. Some sources claimed that there were hardly any omega-3 fats in pumpkin seed oil and others claimed up to 15%.
No doubt the truth depends on the type of pumpkin seeds the oil comes from, but the bottom line is that you really can’t be sure how much omega-3 is in pumpkin seed oil. Most of the sources I checked claimed that there was little to none.
The label isn’t going to help you either as omega-3 and omega-6 fats are lumped together and listed as “polyunsaturated”. In addition, if the pumpkin seed oil is not cold pressed, any omega-3 fats present will be rancid and dangerous to consume anyway!
Relying on pumpkin seed oil as a source for your critically important omega-3 fats is not a good idea, Dr. Oz!
Now for the real sticking point.
Pumpkin Seed Oil is NOT as Good as Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
Dr. Oz’s claim that pumpkin seed oil has “joined the ranks” of olive oil and coconut oil is nothing short of completely ludicrous. The reason is that both olive oil and coconut oil are extremely low in inflammation triggering and backside building omega-6 fats. Moreoever, coconut oil is loaded with incredibly healthy and beneficial medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) that help you lose weight and fuel your brain optimally.
Pumpkin seed oil has no MCT’s at all!
Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are are those fats that are used everywhere in processed foods (think chips, cookies, crackers, muffins – the stuff most people eat way too much of) and when these types of fats are consumed to excess, they contribute to inflammation and chronic illness.
Additionally, while a very small amount of omega-6 fats are necessary for health, when excessively consumed as happens in the Western diet, vegetable oils contribute to overproduction of neuromodulatory lipids called endocannabinoids that are responsible for signaling hunger to the brain.
Guess what these little guys do? They give you the munchies!
You may wonder why the name endocannabinoids sounds a bit like cannabis (weed). Weed is famous for giving people the munchies too so you can consider omega-6 vegetable oils the marijuana of fatty acids and pumpkin seed oil is loaded with it.
Omega-6 Fats in Pumpkin Seed Oil are the Ones to Avoid
Omega-6 fats are the type of fats that health conscious people want to avoid with their oils of choice. Why? They are already getting plenty of it in their diet and only a small amount is needed for health, so no need to get more with the oils they are choosing to cook and make salad dressing with at home.
How much omega-6 does pumpkin seed oil actually have? How about up to a whopping 64%!
According to the Australian Pumpkin Seed Company, pumpkin seed oil has the following lipid breakdown (note that there are no omega-3 fats listed):
Fatty acid profile of Pure Pumpkin Seed Oil:
- Linoleic Acid (Omega 6 PUFAs) 64.2%
- Oleic Acid (Omega 9) 11.3%
- Palmitic Acid (saturated) 14.6%
- Stearic Acid (saturated) 9.9%
Even more conservative estimates of the omega-6 composition of pumpkin seed oil list anywhere from 42-57% which is still far too high for this oil to even be considered for home use. Next to the very unhealthy fatty acid profile of grapeseed oil which clocks in at 65% linoleic acid, pumpkin seed oil has the most unbalanced fatty acid profile of omega-6 fats I’ve ever examined.
By comparison, olive oil has 3-21% omega-6 fats, canola has about 20%, and coconut oil has about 2%.
Should you follow Dr. Oz’s advice and use pumpkin seed oil? Sure, if inflammation, chronic illness and weight gain is your goal.
Pumpkin seed oil is no way, no how in the same league as olive oil and coconut oil!
I will say one positive thing about Dr. Oz and his love of pumpkin seed oil. At least he doesn’t suggest that people cook with it. He suggests to use it for salad dressing which would be the least damaging way to use it as a polyunsaturated fat like pumpkin seed oil should not be heated or used for cooking .
On the other hand, he doesn’t say not to cook with it either! Maybe he made that clarification in the actual show. I hope so!
Let me suggest a piece of friendly advice. Skip the Dr. Oz Show. While he seems to be a really nice guy and does give out good information once in awhile (and has had some good guests on in the past like Dr. Mercola and Dr. Kaayla Daniel), when it comes to listening to him for consistently correct health information, his advice does nothing but confuse and ultimately harm his viewers.
He is obviously trying to please both the health community and his Big Food, Big Pharma sponsors by sitting on the fence. A tough spot to be in to keep your job, so make sure your health isn’t a casualty of this back and forth battle.
Want to Know the Real Skinny About Fats?
If learning more about fats is of interest to you, my book Get Your Fats Straight, gives you the lowdown so you know which ones to eat and which ones to avoid.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Pumpkin Seed Oil Analysis
Why Women Need Fat, William Lassek MD
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