Seed Oil Versus Sugar: Which is Worse?

By  //  June 5, 2023

According to Dr. Eric Berg, renowned nutritionist and diet counselor, “Sometimes it’s actually hard to find actual, real food at the grocery store.” 

You may have also wondered which foods have the most sugars and starch. It’s a reasonable question about refined white sugar and carbs, but what about the seed oils you’ll find in so many foods?

The Fatty Acids

Dr. Berg is concerned about the unsaturated fats that food producers now use to replace the unhealthy saturated fats. In particular, the omega-6 and omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids compete with each other in critical metabolic pathways. The modern American diet provides an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 16:1, sometimes as high as 25:1. Your ideal ratio is 1:1.

Omega 6 and 3 are indispensable building blocks of tissues and cell membranes throughout the human body. But excess dietary omega-6 and 3 are stored in body fat and cell membranes for up to 600 days. They are not water soluble and are not readily flushed from the body.

Seed Oils

Oils high in Omega-6 include the seed oils: soy, corn, canola, cottonseed, safflower, and sunflower. Dr. Berg describes them as “Industrial” based on how they are purified. The oil is extracted from seeds with the petroleum-derived solvent hexane at high temperatures. Nevertheless, it is labeled as “vegetable oil” to appear more wholesome. Seed oils are found in many food products.

The Sugar Story

Excess sugar combines with proteins in the blood in a process called glycation. This decreases their availability and function. Sugar is water soluble and it can be quickly burned off with exercise. Excess sugar is stored as fat.

Vitamin B1 is depleted in metabolizing sugar, especially during strenuous exercise, which also depletes potassium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin C. Sugar also competes with vitamin-C, sometimes resulting in a subclinical form of scurvy, with bleeding gums, fatigue, and generalized pain.

Fortunately, as Dr, Berg points out, sugar and carbs in fruit and whole foods are accompanied by protective phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, thus lessening their negative impact. In the same way nuts, though high in omega-6, also offer phytonutrient protection.

Back to the Sources

Beef and eggs are carbohydrate-free sources of both omega-6 and -3. However, their feed sources are critical to creating a desirable ratio. While USDA-rated eggs reach a nearly 20:1 ratio of omega-6 to -3, free-range chickens can produce a ratio as low as 1.3:1. Grain-fed beef can measure as high as a 9:1 ratio, while grass-feeding can reduce that to a 2:1 ratio.

Cattle raised on Dr. Berg’s experimental farm–dedicated to growing nutrient-dense foods–are fed only grass throughout their life, reaching a ratio as low as 1.1 to 1.

The Final Balance

So, which is really worse? Dr. Berg finds that seed oils with high omega-6 unbalanced by omega-3 are worse than sugar. But if you buy carbs of any kind, he advises, “Always look at the whole picture…buy whole foods only.”