Cottonseed Oil health benefits and risks

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Cottonseed Oil Quick Facts
Name: Cottonseed Oil
Colors Clear amber yellow
Taste Neutral
Calories 120 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Total Fat (38.86%)
Vitamin E (32.00%)
Vitamin K (2.83%)
Health benefits Hair growth, Lower inflammation, Prevent cardiovascular diseases, Manage blood pressure, Skin health
The cooking oil which is extracted from cotton plant seeds of various species especially Gossypium herbaceum and Gossypium hirustum, usually cultivated for animal feed, cotton fiber and oil. This oil has similar structure to other oils extracted from kernel. The cottonseed contains 30-38% kernel and 15-20% kernel depending on quality of seed or species. The quality of oil differs from season to season and place to place. Basically, the oil’s quality is high in dry seasons and low when seeds are exposed to wet weather in fields and stored or handled with high moisture. The crude cottonseed oil has better stability because of segment called gossypol. The oil must be refined to discard gossypol which is a naturally occurring toxin protecting cotton plant from damage made by insects. The oil with absence of gossypol is rich in Vitamin E and pale yellow in color and used directly for cooking purposes.

For over a century, it was a part of diet in USA. Just before 1940’s, it was considered as a major vegetable oil produced in USA. Today, it ranks third position in volume after soybean & corn oil expressing 5 to 6% of total domestic fat and oil supply. In United States, average production crosses above 1 billion pounds annually. In fact, it is used as a cooking or salad oil in U.S. About 56% is used in this category and 36% are used for baking and frying fats and small amount is used for margarine and other uses. It has 2:1 ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acid. Naturally, it is considered to be hydrogenated due to its fatty acid profile containing 70% unsaturated fatty acids which includes 52% linoleic (poly-unsaturated), 18% oleic (mono-unsaturated) and 26% palmitic or stearic (saturated). This oil is suitable for frying without requirement of additional processing and formation of trans fatty acids.

Cottonseed oil has high content of tocopherols which are natural antioxidants varying degrees of Vitamin E activity and provides stability giving products containing long shelf life. The oil has non oily, light consistency and high smoke point that makes it suitable for frying, stir fry and other oriental dishes.

Economic history

Before late 19th century, the by-product of cotton processing is considered to be worthless. The cotton production expanded throughout 17th, 18th and mid-19th centuries resulting largely worthless stock of cottonseed. Some seeds were used as fertilizer, animal feed and planting, majority were dumped illegally into rivers or left to rot.

In 1820s & 1830s, the shortage of fats and oils was experienced by Europe due to expansion of rapid population during Industrial Revolution and after effects of British blockade during Napoleonic Wars. The increase in demand for oils or fats with decreasing supply leaded to rise in prices sharply. As a result many Europeans could not afford to buy oils or fats for lighting and cooking. The European entrepreneurs tried to take benefit from the increasing demand for oils and America’s large supply of cottonseed by crushing seed for oil. But it was difficult to separate seed hull from seed and most ventures failed in within few years.

In 1857, this problem was resolved when William Fee invented huller that separated tough hulks from cottonseed meats. This invention started the use of cottonseed oil for illumination purposes in lamps to supplement increasingly expensive lard and whale oil. By 1859, as the petroleum industry emerged, this use came to end.

Then cottonseed oil was used illegally to secure animal fats and lards. Secretly, meat packers added cottonseed oil to pure fats. In 1884, this practice got uncovered. An American meatpacking or food processing company, Armour and Company sought to corner the lard market and aware that it purchased more lard than existing hog population could produced. An investigation followed and legislation passed that products made with cottonseed oil should be labeled as lard compound. Cottonseed oil was mostly blended with olive oil. When the practice got started, countries put import tariffs on American olive oil and in 1883, Italy banned the product completely. These regulatory schemes discouraged cottonseed oil sales or exports, creating oversupply of cottonseed oil that decreased its value.

Depressed value of cottonseed lead new formed Procter and Gamble to utilize its oil. The panic of 1837 lead the two brothers-in-law to merge their soap and candlestick manufacturing businesses in effort for reducing cost and weather the bear market. Finally brothers settled on cottonseed oil as they were searching for replacement of expensive animal fats in production. Procter& Gamble treed cottonseed oil market to bypass meat packer’s monopoly on the price. The demand for candles reduced as the electricity emerged. Then Procter and Gamble found cottonseed oil’s edible uses. With the use of patented technology, they hydrogenated cottonseed oil and made substance which closely resembles lard. Procter & Gamble in 1911 launched an aggressive marketing campaign for publicizing its new product, Criso which is a vegetable shortening could be used as a substitute for lard. The ads were placed in major newspapers advertising that the product “easier on digestion and a healthy alternative to cooking and more economical than butter“. The company started to provide free cookbooks with every recipe calling for Criso.  By 1920s, the company evolved cookbooks in native tongues for specific ethnicities. Moreover, Criso was aired on radio cooking programs. A food chemist, David Wesson, in 1899 formed deodorized cottonseed oil called Wesson cooking oil which was heavily marketed and also became quite popular.

The cottonseed oil became exceptional oil in United States. Wesson oil and Criso became direct substitutes for lard or more expensive oils used for frying, baking, salad dressings and sautéing. By world war II, the shortage of cottonseed oil forced in utilizing direct substitute soybean oil. The production of soybean oil outranked the production of cottonseed oil by 1944 due to the shortage of cottonseed  and the cost of soybean oil falling below than cottonseed oil.

Soybean oil replaced cottonseed oil by 1950 in the use of shortenings such as Crisco due to low price of soybeans. The price of cottonseed increased due to the replacement of cotton acreage by soybeans and corn. The production of cottonseed oil started to decline throughout mid and late 20th century.

In mid-late 2000s, the trend of avoiding Trans fats & mandatory labeling of trans fats increase the consumption of cottonseed oil as the public health agencies and some health experts recommended it as a healthy oil. The other producers and Crisco were able to reformulate cottonseed oil as it contains little to no trans fats. Some health experts claim that the high ratio of polyunsaturated fats to monounsaturated fats & processed nature makes it unhealthy.

Health Benefits of Cottonseed oil

Cottonseed oil offers various health benefits such as protecting skin, lowering cholesterol, inflammation, improve immune system, boost cognition, speeds healing and also prevention from certain cancer types. Let us discuss these health benefits more closer:

  1. Hair growth

Cottonseed oil has linoleic acid which promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss. It neutralizes dermatitis effects which are the main cause for hair loss on skin and strengthen scalp which ensures hair making beautiful and healthy. Cottonseed oil helps to supply linoleic acid required for hair.

  1. Lower inflammation

Inflammation is the process organized by body’s immune system to counteract diseases and infections. Though inflammation is beneficial to the body but is harmful when occurred for longer time period and could lead to other complications. It is recommended to consume monounsaturated fats to lower inflammation rate in the body. Generally monounsaturated fats are anti-inflammatory fats.

  1. Prevent cardiovascular diseases

Monounsaturated fats helps to prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular problems and assist in lowering the level of saturated fats in the body resulting lower chances of cardiovascular diseases. This fat helps to reduce bad cholesterol levels and promote good cholesterol.

  1. Manage blood pressure

Blood pressure is the measurement of force of blood exerted against walls of blood vessels by circulating blood transporting from heart to all body parts. The too low or too high blood pressure causes other heart problems. Meals should contain adequate amounts of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats in diet.

The oil assures adequate intake of PUFA preventing the rising and falling of blood pressure beyond normal. The heart is protected from adverse changes to pumping efficiency. The low blood pressure is harmful for health because insufficient blood is present to fill heart chambers.

  1. Skin health

Vitamin E assists to maintain glowing color and natural beauty by replenishing lost moisture and moisturizing skin. Apply it topically during day and night for maximal results. The oil is rich in Vitamin E and it may prevent dark spots for skin and reduce the action of free radicals that destroy skin cells making the skin look healthy and youthful. An unsaturated fats forms protective barrier around skin cells lowering likelihood of skin barrier being breached by foreign pathogens.

  1. Prevent cancer

Prostate cancer is the main cause for death of thousands of men each year occurs from often times benign growth of prostate called BPH. The appearance of cancerous cells left unchecked, it starts to divide in rapid succession and destroys immune system in process. The oil has rich content of antioxidants levels and reduces the growth of cancerous cells in prostate and chances of development of full blown prostate cancer.

  1. Healing of wounds

The oil has high content of linoleic acid and antioxidants such as Vitamin E making it applicable for wounds as it promotes the healing process. The skin is prone to scrapes, cuts, bruises and scratches. This oil is applicable in wounds. Apply it topically on its own to wounded area or mixing with coconut or jojoba oil for thicker and longer lasting preparation of efficient healing process. The daily use of cottonseed oil minimizes or clears appearance of scarring completely and stimulates growth of new cells to prevent infection.

  1. Promote bodily functions

Choline is an important dietary nutrient necessary for consumption to promote body functions. It could be obtained easily from dietary sources such as cottonseed oil. Cottonseed oil has choline in it that assist lipid metabolize situated in liver so it prevents the liver damage due to lipid accumulation. The oil has dietary choline that prevents diseases such as cancer and enhances reduction of inflammation. Intake of choline features improved energy levels, increased brain function and proper fetal development.

  1. Function of brain

The activity of other bodily parts is associated with functioning of brains optimally. So the foods rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are associated in promoting brain function and lowering the chances of neurological problems that could arise such as dementia. This oil has constituents that lowers inflammation in brain and also lowers swelling in neuron’s pathways. It also prevents build-up of plaque so the brain remains active and sharp. The plaque deposition indicates neurodegenerative illness and precedes Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

  1. Strengthen immunity

Most of the vegetable oils are pro-oxidant in nature which worsens oxidation process and inflammation in the body. Cottonseed oil is rich in antioxidant properties due to the presence of natural unsaturated fats along with Vitamin E. It supports immune system and lowers the chances of communicable diseases.

  1. Helps to lose weight

An intake of Cottonseed oil helps to promote weight loss as it does not possess bad trans fatty acids. The fat found in Cottonseed oil could be burned easily resulting weight loss. The good dietary fat is high in cottonseed oil that efficiently enhance weight loss and promotes overall health of body in reasonable time period.

  1. Enhance cognition

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are associated to increase cognition and lower neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Use natural and unrefined cottonseed oil for lowering inflammation in neural pathways and prevent beta-amyloid plaque deposition keeping sharp as people ages.

Traditional uses

It is used to treat colic in babies.

Side Effects of Cottonseed Oil

Some side effects of cottonseed oil are noted such as an elevated risk of cancer, heart disease, reproductive problems and skin inflammation. The hydrogenated cottonseed oil lead to more side effects than natural cottonseed oil. The unrefined oil contains toxic substance named gossypol that could not be digested by humans. So it is very necessary to know where the cottonseed oil is derived from and what levels of refinement or processing has it undergone.

  1. Heart problems

Cottonseed oil is praised for enhancing heart health but it has high level of saturated fats in hydrogenated form which is harmful for heart health especially those suffering from heart disease or atherosclerosis. The people having cardiovascular problems should consult doctor before using it.

  1. Cancer

The cotton crop is not restricted by same herbicide and pesticide laws. It means that some cottonseed oil could be high in harmful toxins depending on where it has been sourced. Some toxins are directly associated with carcinogenic effects in the body. Mentioned earlier, it is essential to know where the oil comes from and methods used for producing it.

  1. Skin Irritation

People having sensitive skin suffer from itchiness, inflammation and skin redness with the use of cottonseed oil. So does a small patch test on skin before applying it to large body areas.

  1. Reproductive health

Studies show that gossypol is a natural chemical component found in cottonseed oil that could lower sperm production and motility. It can impair one’s ability of having child. The commercial version of cottonseed oil undergoes a process of discarding this gossypol but it is necessary to note whether refinement process includes hydrogenating this oil.

How to Eat         

  • It is used as a salad oil.
  • This oil is used for frying, cooking, baking and salad dressings.
  • Cottonseed oil is used for mayonnaise.
  • It is used in potato chips, cereals, baked goods, oriental dishes and spicy foods.
  • Cottonseed oil is used to bake goods or as a spread on baked goods such as muffins and breads.

Other Facts

  • Cottonseed Oil has the density at 15 °C is 925.87 kg/cubic meter.
  • It has high content of tocopherols.
  • The oil is used to manufacture personal care and cosmetic products.






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