Ever since the role of cholesterol in atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease was recognized a few decades ago, nutritionists have trained their guns on all types of edible oil that go into making tasty snacks which in turn entice you to consume more and more unwanted fat in the form of fast-foods. In fact, the multi-trillion dollar fast food industry is thriving today essentially on tickling your taste buds with fats and other ancillary ingredients. In the process, just like cholesterol got classified into good and bad varieties, edible oil too is getting labels like and good and bad, and in the fight for supremacy in cardiac terms, olive oil has emerged as the undisputed king that rules the roost in kitchens across the world.
Cotton seed oil was a de-glamorized by-product of cotton industry which nobody wanted to touch with a barge pole for several centuries, till its benefits began to make headlines. The by-product of cotton processing, cottonseed was considered virtually worthless before the late 19th century. While cotton production expanded throughout the 17th, 18th, and mid- 19th centuries, a largely worthless stock of cottonseed grew. Although some of the seed was used for planting, fertilizer, and animal feed, the majority was left to rot or was illegally dumped into rivers.
In the earlier part of 19th century, Europe experienced shortages of fats and oils due to rapid rise in population. The increased demand for fats and oils, coupled with a decreasing supply due to war time blockade of trade routes, caused prices to rise sharply. That is when the lowly cotton seed oil found place for itself as many Europeans could not afford to buy the fats and oils they had used for traditional cooking and for lighting. More recent times have witnessed the resurgence of cotton seed oil but questions arise every now and then on the heart-friendliness of cotton seed oil vis-à-vis olive oil.
A 5-day diet regimen rich in cottonseed oil (CSO) was associated with improvements in cholesterol and triglycerides in healthy men compared with a diet rich in olive oil (OO), according to a study published in Nutrition Research (December 2018, Vol 60, pp 43-53). Researchers conducted a single-blind, randomized crossover study to evaluate the effect of a 5-day diet rich in either CSO or OO on fasting and postprandial lipid profiles in healthy-weight men between the ages of 18 and 45 years.
Participants showed an average decrease of 8 percent in total cholesterol on the cottonseed oil diet, along with a 15 percent decrease in low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and a 30 percent decrease in triglycerides. This diet also increased high-density lipoproteins, or HDL (the "good" cholesterol) by 8 percent. Researchers suggested a fatty acid unique to cottonseed oil, dihydrosterculic acid, may help prevent the accumulation of triglycerides, an advantage over olive oil.
Clearly, olive oil cannot claim to be the undisputed king of edible oils when it comes to heart-friendliness. And that is surely good news for the millions looking for the best affordable cooking medium in their kitchens.