Cottonseed oil is a cooking oil that is extracted from the cotton plant. Though there are benefits, a few negative effects can also be found. In this NutriNeat article we will be discussing the dangers of this cooking oil.
Cottonseed oil is a popular vegetable oil, which is extracted from, as the name suggests, cottonseed. This oil is mainly extracted from two species of cotton – Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium herbaceum. After soy, corn, and canola (or rapeseed), cotton is the fourth genetically modified crop for the extraction of oil. In the United States, this is a commonly used oil. It is also a very popular component in various prepackaged food items. This oil is inexpensive and has a longer shelf life than most cooking oils. It is used as a salad oil, in mayonnaise, and salad dressings. There are also certain ill effects of using this cooking oil.
Dangers of Cottonseed Oil
Even though cottonseed oil is a popular alternative for cooking as this oil does not turn rancid due to its long shelf life, it also has some drawbacks. It is mildly inflammatory in nature and also has some components which may prove harmful to health.
According to many nutritionists, cottonseed contains some natural toxins. One such naturally occurring toxin present in the cottonseed is gossypol. This toxin is produced in the seeds and helps the plant against the infestation of insects. This toxin is used as a component in male contraceptives in China. It can cause a series of reactions in men who suffer from a deficiency of potassium.
Gossypol tends to decrease the motility of the sperms and interferes with spermatogenesis. This condition can prove detrimental to men’s fertility. The presence of gossypol in the body tends to interfere with the metabolism of potassium and can be a causative factor for paralysis among men who have a low intake of potassium in their diet. Generally, most commercial manufacturers of this oil, process it in such a way that the gossypol content is removed from the final product. However, a risk remains.
Another danger is that it has a high content of saturated fats. Cottonseed oil also contains very low levels of monounsaturated fats and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. These saturated fats tend to increase the levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the body. Continuous use can lead to many cardiovascular diseases such as blockage of arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attacks, angina, and the like. Cottonseed also contains more than fifty percent of omega-6 fatty acids which may lead to the deficiency of omega-3 essential fatty acids. The oil undergoes the process of hydrogenation which creates trans fats, which can raise the levels of serum cholesterol.
Since there is a similarity in the molecular structures of the composition of cottonseed and peanut oil, people who are allergic to gluten or peanuts also suffer from the same allergic reactions after consuming cottonseed oil. Rashes, itching or burning sensation, and swelling can be triggered due to an allergy. In extreme cases, the individual may experience breathlessness, scratchy throat, and heaviness in the chest.
In order to extract oil from cottonseed, these seeds have to be modified genetically. The cotton plants are crossbred with superweeds that are a wild species of weeds. This crossbreed of cotton plants is resistant to infestation of weevils and other insects. These plants also require dangerous herbicides that may be hazardous for human consumption. These herbicides reverse the effect of antibiotics and make diseases such as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases including gonorrhea difficult to treat.
Since cotton is not a food crop, many harmful pesticides are sprayed to protect the crop. These pesticides are composed of harmful toxins including cyanide, propargite, dicofol, trifluralin, and naled which are carcinogenic in nature. These pesticides seep into the cotton seeds and when oil is extracted from these seeds some amount of toxins gets mixed. Using such an oil for consumption can trigger the development of cancerous cells and make an individual more prone to different types of cancer.
While the National Cottonseed Products Association (NCPA) does not mention any of the aforementioned dangers of cottonseed oil, there are many renowned health experts who suggest that this is one oil that should not be in your diet. One such health expert is Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., who says, “… One of the first things I ask readers to do is to go through their pantry shelves and throw out anything made with cottonseed oil.”
The main threatening factors in this oil are: The fact that heavy degree of pesticides are used while crop growth, and that most of the production is derived from genetically modified seeds. These days, many manufacturers have come up with a “healthier” version of this disputed product, claiming that their oil is free from pesticide and is heart-healthy. Unless, you are sure of the oil (and the extraction source) being free from pesticide exposure and genetic alterations, it would be best to refrain from it. Ultimately, your decision will be based on your individual evaluation of the pros and cons of this subject.