New Study Finds: The Most Popular Cooking Oil Reduces “Love Hormone” Levels in the Brain

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Vegetable oil, a widely popular seed oil, is now under scrutiny for its potential to induce genetic changes in the brain.

Seed oils, commonly referred to as soybean oils, have become a staple in diets around the world, especially in the United States, where they are extensively used for cooking, frying, and as additives in processed foods. Soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and sunflower oil are among the most commonly consumed seed oils in the U.S.

However, emerging research has raised concerns about the adverse effects of seed oils on both physical and mental well-being.

A significant issue associated with these oils is their high concentration of omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fats are essential for the body, maintaining a proper balance with omega-3 fatty acids is crucial.

Unfortunately, modern Western diets often exhibit an alarmingly skewed omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, reaching as high as 16:1, far exceeding the recommended 4:1 or even 1:1 ratio. This severe imbalance has been linked to chronic inflammation, a fundamental driver of various diseases.

The stability of seed oils is another cause for concern. Many of these oils are polyunsaturated, meaning they contain multiple double bonds in their molecular structure.

This chemical composition renders them highly vulnerable to oxidation, a process accelerated by heat, light, and exposure to air.

Consequently, oxidized seed oils can generate harmful compounds that inflict damage at the cellular level. Associations have been made between these compounds and an array of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Recent studies have also revealed a potentially detrimental impact of seed oils on brain function.

As researchers delve deeper into the effects of seed oils, it becomes increasingly clear that a reassessment of their role in our diets is warranted.

While moderation is often emphasized as the key to a healthy lifestyle, it may be prudent to explore alternative options to seed oils, such as olive oil or avocado oil, which offer a more favorable balance of fatty acids and greater stability under cooking conditions.

The quest for optimal health requires staying informed and making informed choices about the foods we consume.

Is Soybean Oil Really as Healthy as We Think?

A groundbreaking study conducted at the University of California, Riverside has cast doubt on the perceived healthiness of soybean oil, a widely used cooking oil in the United States.

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While previous research has already linked its consumption to obesity and diabetes, the latest findings reveal even more worrisome implications for neurological conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety.

In these studies conducted on mice, diets high in soybean oil led to not only obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver, but also had significant effects on the brain, particularly in the hypothalamus—a crucial area responsible for body weight regulation, metabolism, temperature maintenance, and response to stress.

Experts highlights the significance of the hypothalamus in our body functions and its potential link to various health issues.

One notable finding was the decrease in oxytocin, often called the “love hormone,” in the hypothalamus of mice fed on a soybean oil diet. Oxytocin plays a vital role in social bonding, and its reduction could potentially impact social behaviors.

The study revealed around 100 other genes functioning incorrectly in the soybean oil-fed mice. While the implications of these gene changes are not yet fully understood, they could have far-reaching consequences, not only for energy metabolism but also for brain function and diseases like autism and Parkinson’s disease.

Note that this research does not establish a causal relationship between soybean oil consumption and these neurological disorders.

The study focus on male mice presents some limitations, as mouse studies might not perfectly translate to human results. Oxytocin plays a significant role in maternal health and mother-child bonding. Further research on female mice is needed to explore potential gender differences.

Additionally, the research team has yet to identify the specific compounds in soybean oil responsible for the observed changes in the hypothalamus, but they have ruled out linoleic acid and stigmasterol as possible culprits.

Identifying these problematic compounds is a key goal for future research, as it could lead to healthier dietary oil options.

Poonamjot Deol, an assistant project scientist, challenges the prevailing notion that unsaturated fats, like soybean oil, are inherently good for health, stating, “The dogma is that saturated fat is bad and unsaturated fat is good.

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Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat, but the idea that it’s good for you is just not proven.” Interestingly, coconut oil, high in saturated fats, caused far fewer changes in hypothalamic genes.

Closing Thoughts

As our understanding of dietary fats becomes more nuanced, it’s essential to make informed choices about our food intake, considering both physical and brain health. In a country where over 40% of the population is obese, the impact of obesity reaches beyond physical health and into cognitive function and neurological well-being.

Mounting evidence suggests that obesity can have significant implications for brain health, potentially contributing to cognitive decline and increasing the risk of neurological disorders. With such knowledge, it’s more critical than ever for  people to carefully consider the foods they consume, as it might affect their brain function and overall well-being.

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