The adage “Liars use statistics but statistics never lie” and other axioms that emphasize the use of statistics to support an argument that contrasts with prevailing truths and often obfuscates the bigger picture is well at work these days.
Get a load of Mazola’s newest ad campaign hitting print and television over the past month. The print edition, recently seen in Bay Area regional newspapers, goes on about how corn oil is better for you than using olive or other oils. The article quickly focuses in on cholesterol citing “not all cooking oils are created equal.” They argue we should switch from olive oil in favor of corn oil because “a study” shows corn oil can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. They also state “Corn oil has five times the amount of polyunsaturated fats compared to olive oil and these heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood.”
But wait, there’s more…Mazola boasts that corn oil contains cholesterol-blocking plant sterols– plant-based micronutrients that help block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut and work to prevent bad cholesterol (LDL)– from entering the blood stream.
And even more…Mazola contends that corn oil contains nearly four times more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than olive oil, three times as many as vegetable oil and nearly 1.5 times more than canola oil. Oh my.
And yes these claims, isolated from actual cooking protocols, by themselves are true. It’s when the volume of oils used or the application in cooking is considered the corn oil claims dissolve into muck. As an example, you would have to use four times the amount of olive oil to attain parity with corn oil’s armada of cholesterol-blocking potential. And who deep fries chicken in olive oil anyway? It’s no secret that olive oil is used for “seasoning” more than cooking due to its low temperature range; you don’t cook with olive oil, you flavor with it and you use very little. The best alternative to corn oil in high temperature frying is pure vegetable or canola oil. Either imparts better heart healthy attributes than corn oil and doesn’t break down over extended high heat applications.
Besides the better health claims, there’s Mazola’s pitch that corn oil has no taste so it allows the “true flavors of your dish to come through.” Uh huh. I think they mean that what little flavor is left from decades of Monsanto and other chemical company’s genomandering our fruits and vegetables, corn oil allows the resulting anemic flavors to permeate our otherwise dummy-downed sense of smell.
I owned a great restaurant and have cooked for my family and friends for over 40 years and never used corn oil. Here’s what I think is the reason why Monsanto is advertising the benefits of corn oil: the Midwest corn and soybean farmers of the U.S. are panicking from a depletion in sales of corn to Mexico and other countries because the White House is threatening to leave or change NAFTA. Already, Mexico is importing corn from countries in South America leaving U.S. farmers more than squirming. Hence the pitch to get us U.S. citizens to use more corn oil.
Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to continue using a collaboration of Canola and olive oils in my cooking just like I have for the past 40 years. And by the way, the bad cholesterol counts for me and my family are well below average and the “good” cholesterol counts are higher than the average for our data set. For those of you stuck on corn oil, I suggest you donate it to anyone owning an automobile or truck with a diesel engine. Just dump the corn oil in and let it burn. It’s much better utilized as an auto fuel additive than a food ingredient.
Stan Houston has no affiliation with the chemical community or any agribusiness concern or any liberal earthy association. He just tells it like is.