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Oatly Responds in Defense of its Ingredients | Jeff Nobbs

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post looking at the ingredients in oatly to determine if it’s a healthy alternative to plant-based milk. I concluded that Oatly has about the same impact on blood sugar as Coke, that the rapeseed oil found in Oatly is harmful, and that the inclusion of phosphate additives is problematic.

This is oatly’s response to my post:

Reading: Oatly maltose

“I’d love to clear up a few things about that blog post as it contains misinformation and speculation about our ingredients.”

first, regarding sugar: the author is right about our production process (we are very proud of it and transparent about it!). We use natural enzymes to liquefy our oats, as this process allows us to make a super creamy oat milk that retains much of the goodness of oats, such as carbohydrates, proteins, unsaturated fats and soluble fiber (beta glucan). As part of this process, enzymes convert some of the starch in the oats to sugar, similar to how the human body converts starch to sugar during digestion. Since these sugars are the result of our production process, they are considered added by the FDA, which is why they are labeled as “added” sugars on our nutrition panels. sugar is found in many foods, including cow’s milk. our unflavored oat milks contain 7 g of sugar per 8 oz serving, which is less than the amount of sugar in cow’s milk.

We have not tested the GI or GL levels of our oat milks. however, although maltose is the main sugar found in oats, the GI of pure maltose cannot be assumed to be the same as our oat milk given the fiber, fat and protein content of our oat milk. oatmeal, all of which affect the GI value and make oat milk more of a liquid food. It’s also worth noting that a person’s entire diet must be considered when looking at glycemic effect, as people typically eat a few (if not many) different foods at the same time, all of which come into play (e.g. Most people tend to have oat milk with some coffee or tea, or with cereal, in a smoothie, etc.).

Next, regarding rapeseed oil: We specifically chose rapeseed/canola oil for our products because of its great nutritional profile (low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than most other oils). Contrary to the author’s claims, the oil we use actually has a trans fat content of less than 0.1g/100g, and we only use non-GMO expeller-pressed rapeseed oil. We have been using this type of oil in our products for over two decades in Sweden, where non-GMO rapeseed oil is a common feature in Nordic diets.

As for phosphates and nutrition, phosphorus (along with other nutrients such as calcium) is necessary for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth. the author of the blog post may be interested to know that a recent new advice on phosphates issued by the european food safety authority declared phosphates to be essential nutrients and considered both natural phosphorus from food and phosphorus from food additives as phosphates. The main food categories that contributed to phosphates were milk, bread and meat, and our oat milk actually has similar phosphorous content to cow’s milk as a result of our added calcium and dipotassium phosphates. All that said, it is the total amount of phosphate in a diet that counts most, not the source of the phosphorus.

finally, regarding vitamin d, the author is correct that we use d2 because it is a vegan source of the vitamin, which is crucial to our products. however, the Swedish Food Agency has stated that d2 and d3 are equally effective.

I know this is a lot of information to digest, so feel free to come back with questions at any time! We put a lot of thought into each of our ingredient choices and make them with both the health of the planet and human health in mind. We never add anything that isn’t fully approved for consumption and are always happy to chat.”

I really appreciate oatly’s response. we’re all trying to do our part to make the world a better, healthier place, so it’s great to see oatly joining the conversation on how best to do it.

That said, let’s break this answer down, point by point…

sugar

“first, regarding sugar: the author is right about our production process. […] Since these sugars are the result of our production process, they are considered added by the FDA, which is why they are labeled as “added” sugars on our nutrition panels. sugar is found in many foods, including cow’s milk. our unflavored oat milks contain 7 g of sugar per 8 oz serving, which is less than the amount of sugar in cow’s milk.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a process that uses enzymes to convert starch to sugar, but the problem isn’t the amount of sugar in a glass of oat milk or how that sugar is produced, it’s the type of sugar. Whether that sugar is “added” according to the FDA or created through an industrial production process is semantics that is not relevant to glycemic load. The way the sugars got into the oat milk doesn’t affect the oat milk’s impact on blood sugar, but the type of sugars that are certainly does.

Oatly’s main sugar, maltose, has 2.3 times more of an impact on blood sugar than lactose, the main sugar in cow’s milk. maltose has a glycemic index of 105, compared to 46 for lactose.

I’m not advocating that people drink cow’s milk, but if we’re comparing oat sugar to cow’s milk sugar, we need to look at the type of sugar, not just the amount of sugar, the same This way we look at the type of fat and not just total fat.

“We have not tested the GI or GL levels of our oat milks. however, although maltose is the main sugar found in oats, the GI of pure maltose cannot be assumed to be the same as that of our oat milk given the fiber, fat, and protein content of our oat milk. oatmeal, all of which affect the gi value and make oat milk more of a liquid food.”

oatly points out that their oat milk contains fiber, fat, and protein content that affects its GI (glycemic index) value. when I pointed out that oatmeal has the same impact on blood sugar as cola, my analysis reflected the small amount of fiber and protein present in oatmeal. the analysis did not include fat, because with so little protein, the amount of fat in a serving of oatmeal has minimal effect on blood sugar response [1].

However, I made a small calculation error in my original post. I had used the fiber content of oatly to calculate the glycemic load of the oat part of oatly, but not to calculate the glycemic load of maltose (the sugar found in oatly). I ran my calculations again to determine what the impact of maltose on blood sugar would be in the context of one gram of soluble fiber.

According to research, each gram of beta glucan (the fiber in oats) lowers the glycemic index of carbohydrates/sugars by 3.8 points, which means that one gram of soluble fiber (beta glucan) in a serving of oatmeal would lower the glycemic index of maltose from 105 to 101, still very high and about the same gi as pure liquid glucose [2].

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even with the slightly lower glycemic index for maltose due to soluble fiber content, i get about the same result for oatly’s blood sugar impact: a glycemic index of 77 (previously 79) and a glycemic load of 18.4 (previously 19.0) for a 12 oz serving; it still has about the same impact on blood sugar as a 12 oz cola, which has a glycemic index of 63 and a glycemic load of 20.8.

You can see my full calculations here.

“It is also worth noting that a person’s entire diet must be considered when looking at glycemic effect, as people typically eat a few (if not many) different foods at the same time, all of which go into at stake (for example, most people tend to have oat milk with some coffee or tea, or with cereal, in a smoothie, etc.).”

When it comes to oatly’s blood sugar impact, a person’s “whole diet” throughout the day is less relevant than the foods eaten along with the oat milk. what someone eats at night has little to no effect on the blood sugar impact of a morning oatmeal latte. the portion of the diet eaten with oat milk is the most important to consider, but perhaps that is also what oatly is referring to, as they go on to cite some examples of foods eaten with oat milk (coffee, tea, cereal, smoothies, etc.).

oatly mentions that people can have oatmeal with cereal. Eating oatmeal with cereal can make your blood sugar problem worse. most grains are just processed carbohydrates and sugar. adding carbohydrates to oat milk will hurt, not help, the blood sugar response. pouring 12 ounces of oatmeal into a cup of cornflakes would have about the same impact on blood sugar as drinking two cans of coke.

While it’s true that moderate levels of protein, fat, and fiber help reduce a meal’s impact on blood sugar, I’d imagine that oatly oat milk is often consumed on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning or between meals. as oatly states in his answer, many people consume oatly with coffee or tea. I’ve never seen anyone make an oatmeal latte to go with their protein- and fat-packed lunch or dinner, and a shot of espresso or cup of tea alone will have little to no effect on the resulting blood sugar spike.

Eating oatmeal in a smoothie, made with protein and healthy fats, like an avocado, some nut butter or protein powder, and maybe even some veggies for extra fiber, would help mitigate the sugar response in the blood, but you’re still stuck with the industrial seed oil…

rapeseed oil

“then, regarding rapeseed oil, we specifically chose rapeseed/canola oil for our products because of its excellent nutritional profile (low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and higher in fatty acids). omega-3 than most other oils). Contrary to the author’s claims, the oil we use actually has a trans fat content of less than 0.1g/100g, and we only use non-GMO expeller-pressed rapeseed oil.”

rapeseed oil is not a health food. we’re in trouble if we rely on industrially processed rapeseed oil as our source of omega-3s. It’s like saying that cake is a great source of calcium. cake may contain calcium, but that doesn’t mean we should eat cake to get enough calcium.

Also, the omega-3 found in rapeseed oil is in the form of a wing, unlike epa and dha, which are more bioavailable. when you consume ala, it must first be converted to epa or dha before the body can use it. however, this conversion process is inefficient in humans. less than 10% of the ala is converted to the bioavailable forms epa and dha [3, 4].

when ala is not converted to epa or dha, the body simply stores it or uses it as calories.

regardless of ala, epa or dha, all omega-3s are extremely delicate fatty acids that oxidize easily, even more delicate than omega-6s. there is evidence that oxidation of omega-3s, caused in part by exposure to high temperatures, can cause organ damage, inflammation, carcinogenesis (cancer), and advanced atherosclerosis (heart disease) [5].

The production of rapeseed (canola) oil is an industrial process that requires high friction and heat. many of these unstable omega-3s are already oxidized in rapeseed oil even before they reach an oat production facility [6].

Omega-3 oxidation is part of what gives spoiled fish oil its unpleasant odor and taste. As fish oil oxidizes, new byproducts called lipid peroxides begin to form, as well as harmful aldehydes. however, the delicate omega-3s in fresh fish are protected by the meat and naturally present the antioxidants in fish, even when cooked at moderate temperatures.

as with spoiled fish oil, an unpleasant odor is also formed in the production of rapeseed oil; however, that odor is masked by refining, including a high-temperature deodorization step.

here is a video showing how solvent extracted rapeseed/canola oil is produced:

oatly notes that they use expeller-pressed rapeseed oil (as opposed to solvent-extracted oil). what’s the difference?

In solvent extraction, the rapeseeds are soaked in chemicals like hexane that help extract more oil from the seeds.

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In expeller pressing, rapeseed is pressed mechanically and subjected to high temperatures of up to 464 ℉ (240 °C), but without chemicals. expeller pressed is not the same as cold pressed.

cold-pressed oils refer to the ancient method of grinding or stone grinding, as in the crushing of olive oils. cold-pressed oils must be produced below 122 ℉ (36 °C) [7].

These are the steps to produce expeller-pressed rapeseed oil [8]:

  1. seed cleaning. Rapeseed seeds are separated and cleaned to remove impurities such as stalks and dirt.
  2. seed conditioning and flaking.seeds are preheated to approximately 95℉ (35℃), then “crushed” on roller mills to break down the cell wall of the seed.
  3. seed cooking. the seed crumbles are cooked by a series of stoves heated by steam. This heating process typically lasts 15-20 minutes at 176-248℉ (80°C-120°C).
  4. pressing. then the seed flakes Cooked canola are pressed through a series of screw presses or ejectors. even without additional heating, the pressure and friction involved in pressing produce a heat of 140-210°f (46°-85°c).
  5. refining. the oil pressed then goes through the refining process, also known as “rbd” or refining, bleaching & deodorized in the industry. oils such as rapeseed/canola, soybean, sunflower, and safflower are also “degummed” and/or “overwintered.” this is what makes the oils so light in color and taste.
  6. deodorization. To remove remaining off-flavors, the refined oil is deodorized at temperatures of 230°C to 240°F (446°F to 464°F) for 20 to 90 minutes [9].

I’m not implying that anything industrially processed is inherently unhealthy, but subjecting polyunsaturated fats (such as those found in rapeseed oil) to high temperatures creates a number of problems. furthermore, our unprecedented consumption of omega-6 fats found in seed oils like rapeseed would be nearly impossible without industrial processing that extracts those omega-6 fats from inedible seeds [10]. Rapeseed/canola oil consumption has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, poor memory, decreased brain function, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

rapeseed/canola oil is a highly processed toxic oil. studies showing the opposite are often sponsored by the canola industry [11, 12, 13, 14, 15].

I recognize that there are not many affordable and healthy oil options. rapeseed oil happens to be one of the cheapest edible oils in the world, along with palm oil and soybean oil, and it is difficult for other healthier oils to compete with the low price of rapeseed. like palm and soy, there are environmental concerns with rapeseed, but there are also environmental concerns with cow’s milk, and the topic of this post is health, so I won’t go into sustainability.

Organic cold-pressed avocado oils and high-oleic sunflower oils are better options, but they are significantly more expensive and have their own environmental costs. ideally oatly would remove the oil entirely, as it does in some of its swedish products, but I understand that removing the oil is probably not an option for oat milk provided to cafes. it needs to froth, foam, and work similar to cow’s milk, and the oil helps it do that, as well as providing a fuller mouthfeel.

“We have been using this type of oil in our products for more than two decades in Sweden, where non-GMO rapeseed oil is a common feature in Nordic diets.”

rapeseed/canola oil may be a common feature in today’s Nordic diets, but it is certainly not a traditional Nordic food. Rapeseed oil was used as an industrial lubricant and machine oil until the 1970s, when scientists discovered a way to remove the high erucic acid content that made it so toxic. until the 1970s, rapeseed could not even be fed to livestock. in the 1980s, European farmers were offered subsidies to grow high-yielding rapeseed, leading to its popularity and prevalence.

phosphates

“with respect to phosphates and nutrition, phosphorus (along with other nutrients such as calcium) is necessary for the maintenance of normal bones and teeth. the author of the blog post may be interested to know that new advice on phosphates was recently issued by the European food safety authority stating that phosphates are essential nutrients, and considered both natural phosphorus from foods and phosphorus from food additives as phosphates the main food categories that contributed to phosphates were milk, bread, and meat, and our oat milk actually has a phosphorus content on par with that of cow’s milk as a result of our added calcium and dipotassium phosphates. , it is the total amount of phosphate/phosphorus in a diet that counts most, not the source of the phosphorus.”

I get that there’s nothing inherently wrong with phosphorus, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with sugar either. the dose makes the poison.

regarding the new advice on phosphates issued by the european food safety authority (efsa), they also stated: “the estimated total intake of phosphates from foods may exceed the safe level established by the efsa after re-evaluating their safety . efsa scientists also recommend the introduction of maximum permitted levels to reduce the content of phosphates when they are used as additives in food supplements, since those who take them regularly may be at risk.”

the washington post ran a story called why phosphate additives will be the next taboo ingredient going so far as to say that “phosphate additives will be the trans fat of the future; at one point it was prevalent throughout our food supply and was eventually banned due to overwhelming evidence of its negative impact on human health.”

Although I think they go too far in demonizing phosphates and rely on observational studies to make their health claims, they also point out that only 40-60% of phosphorus in real foods is absorbed, whereas 90% of phosphate additives are absorbed thought to be absorbed. This would mean that while oatmeal and cow’s milk may list “phosphorus” in similar amounts on Nutrition Facts labels, oatmeal may contain up to twice the digestible amount of phosphorus compared to cow’s milk.

It would be one thing if people were deficient in phosphorus, but most oat milk drinkers consume too much phosphorus, not less. the recommended daily amount of phosphorus is 700 mg per day [16]. a large latte with oat milk contains 540 mg, or 77%, of the recommended amount. if phosphates are absorbed at twice the rate of natural phosphorus, then a large serving of oatmeal would contain the equivalent of 1,080 mg of phosphorus, or about 154% of the recommended daily allowance.

There is one study that contradicted those findings and found that phosphate additives are only slightly more bioavailable than phosphorus from real foods, but the authors concluded that “although interesting and potentially important for measuring phosphorus exposure in the diet, additives remain a major source of dietary phosphorus that can be eliminated from the diet[.]”

vitamin d2

finally, regarding vitamin d, the author is correct that we use d2 because it is a vegan source of the vitamin, which is crucial to our products. however, the Swedish Food Agency has stated that d2 and d3 are equally effective.

i understand the use of d2 to keep it vegan friendly, but there are also vegan friendly versions of vitamin d3, though again more expensive than the conventional less than optimal alternative. Regarding efficacy, the vast majority of studies show that vitamin d3 is superior to vitamin d2 in increasing and maintaining blood levels of 25ohd [17].

conclusion

I don’t think oatly is an evil company, nor do I think it’s a bad company. is simply a company trying to produce a tasty and affordable plant-based alternative to milk. Unfortunately, Oatly Oat Milk uses an industrial seed oil for foaming, uses a production process that produces high-glycemic maltose sugar to appeal to taste buds without listing sugar on the ingredient list, and includes additives from phosphate for a creamier mouthfeel.

I understand the commercial reasons why Oatly includes maltose, industrial seed oil and phosphate additives in their oat milk, but that doesn’t mean we consumers should drink it.

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