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Is cottonseed oil a healthy alternative?

In a recent study in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers tested the effects of cottonseed oil on the lipid profiles of men.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death in the United States. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high levels of harmful triglycerides are all risk factors for CVD As such, a change in diet combined with exercise can help decrease or prevent the onset of the disease.

To reduce the risk of disease, health professionals suggest eating foods high in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and cottonseed oil instead of foods with saturated and trans fatty acids.

Cottonseed oil has high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids

Cottonseed oil is unique as it contains high levels of saturated fatty acids, but also has high amounts of beneficial PUFAs, and has been shown to reduce lipid levels. In a recent study published in Nutrition Research, researchers compared the effects of consuming cottonseed oil to olive oil on the lipid profiles of men.

For the study, researchers recruited men aged 18-45, with healthy body weight and did less than three hours of exercise per week. Men were excluded for a variety of reasons such as being vegan or vegetarian, having gastrointestinal disorders, tobacco use or exercising regularly.

To begin the study, participants fasted for eight to 12 hours and had their height, weight, body composition, and oxygen levels measured. For 72 hours, participants were put on a typical American diet made of 50% carbohydrates, 35% fats, and 15% protein. Participants fasted for eight to 12 hours on the last day, and the next morning had measurements taken again, had their blood drawn, and were given a high-fat breakfast and lunch.

During the study, participants had a breakfast shake at the laboratory and were given meals for the rest of the day to consume at home. These meals were made of 50% fat (with 44% of the 50% from either the olive oil or cottonseed oil), 35% carbohydrates and 15% protein. Following the five-day intervention, participants fasted for eight to 12 hours and had their measurements taken.  For two to four weeks, the participants consumed their normal diets and redid the whole trial, except with the oil they did not consume in trial one.

Cottonseed oil improves cholesterol and lowers triglycerides

Compared to olive oil, cottonseed oil lowered total cholesterol and bad cholesterol and elevated good cholesterol when participants were in a fasted state. Similarly, after eating, levels of triglycerides were lower when participants consumed cottonseed oil. Olive oil did not alter levels of cholesterol or triglycerides.

Cottonseed oil was able to improve the lipid profiles of men, whereas olive oil had no effect. However, the use of only healthy males in the study limits the possibility of generalizing the results. Furthermore, the intervention was short term, so the authors note that future studies should focus on the long-term effect of cottonseed oil on cholesterol and triglycerides.

Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

Reference: Oswell, N.J., Pegg, R.B., Patona, C.M., & Cooper, J.A. (2018). A 5-day high-fat diet rich in cottonseed oil improves cholesterol profiles and triglycerides compared to olive oil in healthy men. Nutrition Research, 60, 45-53.



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