Concerns about the potential health risks of vegetable oil are unfounded and, in fact, oils made from soy, corn, canola, and other plants can actually lower blood cholesterol levels and boost heart health, new research shows.
Most Americans consume at least three tablespoons a day of vegetable oil, which is rich in linoleic acid, an essential heart-healthy nutrient. In recent years, some health specialists have argued Americans might be getting too much of a good thing, but a new analysis of vegetable oil health studies contradicts that claim.
For the analysis, researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois reviewed 15 studies — involving nearly 500 individuals — and found that no link between vegetable oil consumption and inflammation associated with diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, and arthritis.
While earlier animal studies have shown that a diet rich in linoleic acid may promote inflammation, MU researcher Kevin Fritsche said humans respond to the nutrient differently.
"In the field of nutrition and health, animals aren't people," said Fritsche, an M.U. professor of animal science and nutrition in the Division of Animal Sciences. "We're not saying that you should just go out and consume vegetable oil freely. However, our evidence does suggest that you can achieve a heart-healthy diet by using soybean, canola, corn, and sunflower oils instead of animal-based fats when cooking."
To reach his conclusions, Fritsche and colleagues examined the evidence from numerous clinical trials involving adults as they consumed various forms of fats, including vegetable oils. The researchers could find no evidence that a diet high in linoleic acid had any links to inflammation in the body.
As a result, they said it is important for Americans to continue following the current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the American Heart Association to use vegetable oil when cooking and consume between two and four tablespoons of vegetable oil daily for the necessary amount of linoleic acid needed for a heart-healthy diet.
"Consumers are regularly bombarded with warnings about what foods they should avoid," Fritsche said. "While limiting the overall fat intake is also part of the current nutrition recommendations, we hope people will feel comfortable cooking with vegetable oils."
The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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