If canola oil is so safe, why do food scientists spend so much time trying to make it more stable?

Not long ago I was walking through the aisles in the automotive department at our local Wal Mart when a soft-spoken voice caught my attention.  “Dr. Pettus, do you remember me?” 

I should have died in 2009! And I probably would have if I'd listened to the neurologist at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boston. If we had taken his words to heart, taken them as fact rather than an educated guess, I'd be dead! If I had let his words, "I'd say you have 18 - 24 months to live," soak into my brain like a toxic chemical spill on pristine marshland, I'd be dead! But, in the parking lot outside the hospital on that cold December day, my wife, Linda, and I made a pact that we wouldn't let the words of any man, regardless of his scholarly pedigree, dictate the rest of our lives.

Is it possible that the quality of one’s friendships and social connections is as strong a predictor of health and longevity as blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight?  Is it possible that the quality of your relationships with friends, neighbors, family and co-workers forms the foundation upon which your ability to remain resilient under stress resides?  The answer is YES and YES!  As I will suggest from some recent research, social isolation is both common and a formidable predictor of premature death and disease. In many respects this is a silent epidemic in our communities. Let’s briefly examine some of the evidence that supports how common loneliness is and how this ex translates into diminished quality of life and disease or as health, happiness, and longevity.  

Conventional wisdom has long held that the genetic cards you inherent from your mother and father are the genetic cards    you are stuck with throughout your life, for better or for worse.  Most clinicians continue to believe that you cannot do anything about the risks you inherit from your parents. Like so many long held truths in medicine, it is now increasingly clear that this is not the case.  You are not a prisoner of your DNA.  Your DNA is not your destiny.  Compelling evidence now suggests that your genes are in fact quite malleable throughout life, designed to change expression in response to changes in one’s environment.  So how well do you fit into your genes?

As concerns swirl around the future of healthcare coverage in this country, there’s a tendency to think that our personal health revolves largely around doctor’s appointments, runs to the pharmacy and an occasional trip to the hospital.  But the truth is, the single most critical factor in staying healthy is – and always has been – our own self-care.  That’s more important now than ever. We’re doctors of ourselves, and we need to view and plan our lives accordingly.

Some suggestions on how to approach this responsibility:


April 7th is World Health Day. Sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), the first World Health Day was held in 1950 to help raise awareness of critical public health issues. It’s a celebration of all the effort that goes into building healthier societies, and a platform to bring attention to challenges that still exist.

A first of its kind trial is getting underway at the University of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.  Researchers there, led by Dr. Michael Morowitz, MD a pediatric thoracic surgeon, are investigating how an organic, whole foods-based enteral formula influences the intestinal environment of children.  Changes in the GI and microbiome that are generated by the Functional Formularies product, Nourish®, are being compared to those produced by the typical commercial enteral formula (largely comprised of highly refined carbohydrates, oils, and which contain very little fiber.)

When I was diagnosed with ALS at the age of thirty-six, I was told that I would have less than two years to live. With no treatment or a cure, the disease robs you of all your physical abilities until you can no longer breath. Well that was three years ago. I'm happy to report that while I can no longer walk, talk, move my arms, or eat, I still live an active and productive life thanks to technology, mindfulness, and nutrition.

While there are still some who resist the notion that more fat in the diet can be healthy, the general consensus that high quality fats and oils can be a major constituent continues to grow.  Whether someone is getting 40% of their energy from fats or 60% would be less important in my opinion.  The greatest issues with fats are more about their qualities and stability overall.

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