During the past few years, medical research has been sounding a warning about the health risks linked to cheap vegetable oils used in restaurant meals, fast foods, processed foods and even in many home kitchens.
These oils – soy, corn, canola – are everywhere, and it takes some effort to avoid them.
And now the warnings against them just got louder.
Because research at the University of California-Riverside indicates that the #1 oil consumed in the U.S., may cause genetic changes in the brain that damage our health and expand our waistlines.
Laboratory tests revealed that eating foods cooked with soybean oil results in serious changes to cells in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located near the base of the brain. It influences our stress responses, appetite, emotions, body temperature, sexual behavior and reproduction.
According to the California researchers, soybean oil caused genetic changes that affected the function of about 100 different genes in hypothalamic cells in the brains of laboratory animals.
Now, it’s not clear what the long-term effects of these changes to gene function in the hypothalamus could mean for any individual person who consumes a lot of soybean oil.
But the findings are alarming…
Impaired Neurological Function
For instance, the genetic changes all indicate that consuming soybean oil can “lead to impaired neurological function.” In other words, your brain cells won’t behave as they should.1
In particular, genes linked to schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and pain were all stimulated and rendered more active by consumption of soybean oil. The lab tests also discovered that when this oil is in your meals, it may be upregulated (stimulated into more activity) by a gene whose increased function indicates greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
And one of the tests conducted on soybean oil found it can also slow down the actions of dopamine, a neurotransmitter whose malfunction is linked to Parkinson’s disease.
These same researchers also discovered that eating soybean oil in food may be linked to lower oxytocin levels in your hypothalamus.
Oxytocin, which some folks call the “love hormone,” is believed to play a role in affecting your romantic relationships and cementing the bonds between mothers and their children. The main source of oxytocin in the brain is in the part of the hypothalamus called the paraventricular nucleus.
And soybean oil’s troubling effect on oxytocin raises more questions than it answers. Medical researchers investigating oxytocin still don’t really understand exactly how the hormone works in the brain.
For example, a review study in Spain shows that while some research has linked lower blood levels of oxytocin to autism, depression and schizophrenia, others have found higher levels associated with depression and autism.2
But one thing you can be sure of – no one thinks that consuming a vegetable oil that might lower your brain’s oxytocin levels is a good thing.
More Vulnerable to High Blood Sugar, Weight Gain
Another troubling aspect of the research in California centers on the fact that the hypothalamus interacts with the pancreas to control the body’s supply of insulin. Tests at Rockefeller University show that malfunctions in this part of the brain can make you more vulnerable to blood sugar problems, weight gain and diabetes.3
As researcher Jeffrey Frieman points out, “We tend to think about blood glucose being under the control of the pancreas, so it was surprising that the brain can affect blood glucose in either direction to the extent that it can.”
Meanwhile, other lab tests at the University of California-Riverside show, in fact, that soybean oil can play havoc with blood sugar and make you more prone to diabetes.4
“This was a major surprise for us — that soybean oil is causing more obesity and diabetes than fructose,” reports researcher PoonamjotDeol. “Especially when you see headlines everyday about the potential role of sugar consumption in the current obesity epidemic.”
Among all the vegetable oils Americans get in their food, soybean oil is king. Because it’s so cheap, much of our fast food and processed food is cooked in it. Of all the edible oil in the U.S. diet, it’s number one. Estimates are that Americans consumed a remarkable 10.66 tons of it last year.5
But these tests on soybean oil should be a serious wake up call. Try to avoid eating restaurant food or other processed food cooked in soybean oil. And get it out of your kitchen too!