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So what's wrong with eating rancid oils?

"There are at least two," says lipid specialist and University of Massachusetts professor Eric Decker. "One is that they lose their vitamins, but they also can develop potentially toxic compounds" that have been linked to advanced aging, neurological disorders, heart disease and cancer.

"They're carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic," says integrative medicine specialist Andrew Weil. "They are also widespread in the food chain."

Indeed, while Americans followed orders to ditch saturated and trans fats for polyunsaturated (vegetable) and monounsaturated (olive, canola and peanut) fats, they didn't realize these healthier fats don't last nearly as long.

While monounsaturates (like olive or peanut oil) also can go rancid after about a year, they are still 10 times more stable than polyunsaturates, according to Decker.

Exotic oils (macadamia, walnut, sesame, fish, flaxseed, etc.), nuts and whole grain flours are also major candidates for fast rancidity, and should all be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Whole intact grains and nuts in their shells, however, last much longer.

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