Should You Start Eating Cottonseed Oil?

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When it comes to healthy oils, olive often reigns supreme. But a new study suggested people who ate high-fat meals with cottonseed oil saw an 8% reduction in cholesterol levels, a 15% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol, a 30% decrease in triglycerides (a fat that, in excess, can contribute to heart disease) and an 8% increase in “good” HDL cholesterol.

But before you toss your other cooking oils, here’s more information about what cottonseed oil is and what it could mean for your health:

WHAT IS COTTONSEED OIL?

In short, it’s a vegetable oil derived from the cotton plant. “Its fatty-acid profile — saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat — is most similar to soybean oil and sunflower oil,” explains Dana Hunnes, PhD, RD, a senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “It is higher in saturated fat and polyunsaturated fats than olive oil and is much lower than olive oil in monounsaturated fat.”

In part, those polyunsaturated fats could be playing a role in the aforementioned study results. Polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3’s, are anti-inflammatory, explains Hunnes. “Moreover, these fats are liquid at room temperature and are highly malleable, meaning they more easily flow through our digestive system and veins.” These anti-inflammatory components could remove some of the unhealthy LDL fats from our bodies, she says.

IS COTTONSEED OIL HEALTHY

Despite these study results, experts caution that cottonseed oil is still not quite as healthy as olive oil. “I would call this a preliminary study,” says Hunnes. “We have years and years of observational studies demonstrating the healthfulness of olive oil.”

Furthermore: “Cottonseed oil can be highly processed and contains a high amount of omega-6’s,” says Ilyse Schapiro, RD, a New York-based dietitian. “While that may decrease cholesterol levels in the body, it also can cause inflammation and other problems.” That’s why you should look for extra virgin on the label, which indicates an oil has not gone through extra processing.

THE BOTTOM LINE

“I would stick with olive oil for now,” says Schapiro. “Olive oil and the Mediterranean diet have been studied for many years and continue to prove to be a heart-healthy way of living.”

Of course, there may be room to add cottonseed oil to an already healthy diet that incorporates healthier oils, such as olive oil, if you want to try cottonseed oil out, says Hunnes. For example, because it has a relatively high smoke point, cottonseed oil would make a good cooking oil, she notes. Aim for the portion size of 1 tablespoon, she adds.

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