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Seed Oils, also known as Vegetable Oils, refers to various oils used for cooking such as canola, sunflower, corn and grapeseed oil, among others, which have become associated with unhealthy eating, reportedly proven by scientific studies conducted on the human diet to be a direct cause of obesity and diabetes. The online discussion surrounding seed oils increased significantly due to statements made by Joe Rogan in 2020 on his podcast, inspiring creators to reference seed oils in memes on both Reddit and Twitter most prominently. The trend vaguely relates to discussions on Microplastics, Sigma Males and Soyjaks vs. Chads.
Seed oils or vegetable oils have been prevalent in human culture for millennia. Between 3300 BCE and 1200 BCE, they were prevalent in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, originally used as lamp fuel and then later for cooking, medicine and lubrication. In China under the Song Dynasty, vegetable oil replaced animal fats for stir-frying around 960 AD. However, in the 20th century is when seed oils became prominent after the invention of trans fats in 1901 by a German chemist named Wilhelm Normann. This led to the global production of margarine and vegetable shortening going into the 1900s.
In the United States, cottonseed oil was developed and marketed by a company called Procter & Gamble (P&G), which started selling the product under the name "Crisco" in 1911. GQ published an article in October 2021 detailing that in 1911, Procter & Gamble pushed propaganda through advertising that seed oil was healthier than saturated animal fats like butter to use for cooking. At the time, seed oils were used primarily to fuel machinery. By marketing Crisco as healthier, Procter & Gamble influenced the way American's cooked their food for decades to come. By the 1990s, however, strong evidence surfaced that seed oils were worse for the human diet vs. their animal counterparts.
One of the earliest discussions of seed oils in online meme discourse occurred on 4chan's /pol/ messageboard. The thread was started on July 6th, 2020, by an anonymous user who posted an anti-seed-oil meme using the Distracted Boyfriend template, captioning it, "'Vegetable' oils are toxic Soyboy low-T mouthbreather manlet edition" (shown below). They went on to write, "Doesn't include traditional plant-based oils that are cold-pressed, like extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil. The biggest scam of the 20th century is the gradual but mass swapping of traditional fats (butter, lard, tallow) towards industrial techno-wonders. Factory RBD fats like margarine and 'vegetable' oils, which are now ubiquitous in the food supply."
Multiple 4chan users started to post their own anti-seed-oil memes in the thread. One of them used the X, X Everywhere template (shown below, left). Another used the Boardroom Suggestion template (shown below, right).
Throughout 2020, the trend of memeing seed oils expanded to other platforms and sites online. For example, two Twitter users spread information about seed oils to a wider audience in mid-2020. One was Twitter user drjamesdinic whose name is Dr. James DiNicolantonio. He posted many takes on seed oils to his account. For instance, one tweet posted on June 22nd, 2020, earned roughly 1,000 likes over the course of two years (shown below, left). Another Twitter user named AlpacaAurelius also posted anti-seed oil tweets in 2020, like one posted on July 5th that earned over 850 likes in two years (shown below, right).
Joe Rogan and Paul Saladino on Seed Oils
On October 16th, 2020, Dr. Paul Saladino, an advocate for carnivore-based diets in humans, was interviewed on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, wherein he outlined multiple accounts of evidence against the human consumption of vegetables. This consumption included seed and vegetable oils. A clip from this part of the interview was uploaded on the same day by the JRE Clips YouTube channel, gaining roughly 358,100 views over the course of a year and a half (shown below).
October 2021 Resurgence
Following an article published by GQ on October 14th, 2021 titled, "Seed Oil Is the Latest Thing We're Being Told to Eliminate from Our Diets--Here's Why," author Andrew Zaleski outlined the history of seed oils in the human diet as well as condemned their consumption. The article roughly coincided with an increase in seed oil references within memes going into the rest of October. For instance, on October 11th, 2021, Twitter user Defendthewest17 posted a tweet that referenced James Bond and seed oils, earning roughly 4,500 likes in four months (shown below, left). On October 24th, Twitter user JohnConstas tweeted a cartoon of lizard people laughing with the caption, "I put seed oils in all their food and blamed their health problems on meat," earning roughly 6,900 likes over the course of four months (shown below, right).
In February 2022, more seed oil memes surfaced online, many regarding information about the mitochondria being affected by seed oils. Tweets were also posted in reaction to anti-seed oil content becoming oversaturated on the platform. For instance, on February 22nd, Twitter user SA4543567360 tweeted, "Hate seed oils as much as the next guy but damn are these niggas becoming vegan-level annoying," receiving roughly 2,400 likes in six days (shown below).