Corn oil is one of the go-to sources as an alternative to other cooking oils. Corn oil can offer health benefits for people with bad cholesterol, improving skin or hair conditions, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. There could be potential corn oil side effects that can alter their health benefits. These impacts, whether good or bad, may be due to its extraction process.
What is Corn Oil
Corn is one of the world’s most widely grown and used crops, and where corn oil came from. Due to its widespread availability, it may be one of the most affordable vegetable oils and, consequently, one of the most popular.
In the latter years of the 19th century, corn oil was first extracted for use in commercial cooking. Midway through the 20th century, corn oil began to gain acceptance as a common household ingredient, following the success of corn starch a half-century earlier. (1)
How Corn Oil is Made
Corn oil collection happens through a prolonged process of steam distillation, refinement, and expeller pressing. This process may produce oil with a very high smoke point, which is perfect for cooking. However, this process also removes the healthy compounds, which lessens their health benefits.
Corn is not a naturally oily food, having a fat content of only 1-4%. Even oil extraction takes a lot of time to do. The oil extraction requires the kernels to be mechanically pressed. The oil is then put through a series of chemical processes to eliminate impurities, bad tastes, and odors.
The processes below explain the corn oil extraction.
Extraction Using Hexane solution
It releases oil when corn is washed with a chemical hexane solution. Both humans’ and animals’ nervous systems are adversely affected by hexane. (2)
Remove Unpleasant Tastes and Odor
The oil loses some beneficial compounds along with unpleasant tastes and odors. The use of corn oil before this step is not yet possible due to its taste and smell. (3)
The Process to Remain Liquid
The oil is stripped of waxes and saturated (solid) fats to ensure that it will remain liquid at low temperatures. Many vegetable oils would solidify in the winter without winterization. (4)
Uses of Corn Oil
There are ton of uses for corn oil, here are its various uses below:
Corn Oil For Cooking Applications
Due to its relatively neutral flavor and lower price compared to other vegetable oils, corn oil is frequently used as cooking oil.
Corn oil is perfect for deep-frying foods to the perfect crispness without burning them due to its high smoking point of about 450°F (232°C).
Due to its accessibility, corn oil is the most common option among home cooks in a variety of applications, including:
– Marinades and salad dressings
– Frying and sautéing
– Cookies, cakes, and other baked goods.
Another use of corn oil is for massages, topicals, or medical purposes. (5)
Corn Oil for Non-cooking Applications
Corn oil can be an option to make fuel for gasoline and diesel-powered engines, as well as an industrial cleaner and lubricant. It is also an ingredient in many shampoos, liquid soaps, and cosmetics.
Corn Oil Benefits
Healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are present in corn oil, and consumption in moderation can improve overall health. Additionally, corn oil contains significant amounts of vitamin E, an important antioxidant for battling free radicals, and phytosterols, which are plant-based compounds that prevent the absorption of LDL cholesterol, one of the major causes of heart disease. (6) Here are some potential corn oil benefits observed in several studies.
Regulate Cholesterol Levels
The body requires monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats because they can reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. However, balance is key when it comes to most corn oil varieties, especially refined ones. Use this oil sparingly when cooking because it can lower blood pressure and balance cholesterol in minimal amounts. (7)
When taken in moderation, omega-3 and omega-6 may reduce inflammation in the body. Along with headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and even inflammatory skin conditions, this can ease the symptoms of arthritis.
Reduce the Risk of Chronic Diseases
Flavonoids, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats may have antioxidant properties that can lessen oxidative stress throughout the body. Corn oil can help the skin look and feel younger and prevent chronic disease when used in moderation. (8)
Improve Skin Infection
The antioxidants and tocopherols in corn oil may help prevent skin infections and relieve irritation, blemishes, eczema, and psoriasis, whether you apply it directly to your skin or ingest small amounts of it. Even the appearance of wrinkles and other age spots may decrease with the help of corn oil. Keep in mind that corn oil can be very high in fat so moderation in use is still worth noting. (9)
Corn Oil Side Effects
The potential side effects of corn oil include potential toxicity, increased cancer and cardiovascular disease risks, stomach discomfort, and weight gain. People looking for healthy vegetable oils need to find other options even when used sparingly. Use the organic and unrefined corn oil varieties to get the most beneficial compounds from corn oil.
High in Omega-6 Fats
Linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fat abundant in corn oil, as shown by some studies improved overall health. (10) However, omega-6 fats may be harmful if consumed in excess. Most studies indicate that your body requires an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 4:1 to function at its best. Most people consume these fats in a 20:1 ratio, which means eating far more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats. (11) (12)
Omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammation, especially when there are insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s crucial to have a healthy balance of these fats. (13) The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in corn oil is 46:1. (14)
Corn oil and other foods high in omega-6 fats should observe moderation in consumption, while consuming more of foods high in omega-3 fats, such as fatty fish and chia seeds. This may help reduce inflammation and improve general health. (15)
Manufactured Using Genetically Modified Corn
Most corn oil production uses genetically modified (GMO) corn. About 90% of the corn grown in the United States in 2010 was GMO. (16) This means that a large portion of corn has been genetically altered to be resistant to insects and specific weed killers like glyphosate. (17)
Some people worry about the effects of glyphosate buildup in the body from GMO foods that are glyphosate-resistant. The World Health Organization (WHO) identified that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” in 2015. But a large amount of the available data from animals and test tubes contradicts this. (18) (19)
Long-term research is lacking, although several short-term studies showed that GMO foods are safe. It was only in 1996 that GMO corn became accessible. Because of this, its long-term effects on general health are unknown. (20)
Corn oil is one of the most refined vegetable oil products available today. It must go through a lengthy process to extract it from corn and make it edible. It is likely that corn oil oxidizes, causing it to lose electrons and become molecularly unstable. The risk of developing some diseases can increase with a high level of oxidized compounds. (21) (22) (23)
The antinutrient acrylamide, a highly reactive substance that has been connected to issues with nerve, hormone, and muscle function, is also produced when corn oil is heated. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified acrylamide as a possible carcinogen. (24)
Although corn oil may have some health advantages, it may also be very calorie-dense. For example, a tablespoon of corn oil gives 120 calories, compared to olive oil, which only yields 40 calories per tablespoon. Using corn oil excessively can easily undermine your attempts to lose weight because you might not even be aware that your daily calorie intake has increased significantly.
Corn Oil and Other Alternatives
Corn oil can be replaced with a variety of healthier options. For instance, extra virgin olive oil is produced by pressing naturally fatty olives without additional chemical processing. Coconut oil, a healthy saturated fat that is more stable at high temperatures and oxidation-resistant, can replace corn oil in higher-heat cooking techniques like frying.
Corn Oil vs. Canola Oil
Canola oil and corn oil are frequently confused with one another. The advantages of canola oil may outweigh those of corn oil, although both have a mild flavor and are commonly used in baking, frying, and as a base for salad dressings. The simplest distinction between corn and canola oil is that the latter is made from an edible variety of the rapeseed plant, while the former is processed and extracted from corn. (25)
Corn Oil vs. Olive Oil
Compared to corn oil, olive oil has a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats and a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil and corn both have zero cholesterol; they both work to reduce LDL cholesterol in the body. Contrary to popular belief, corn oil is more efficient and quicker at lowering LDL cholesterol than olive oil, which has long been regarded as the “healthiest” oil. (26)
Due to its high smoke point, corn oil is widely used for cooking techniques like frying. It is also highly refined and high in inflammatory omega-6 fats, despite the possibility that its phytosterol and vitamin E content have some health benefits. Therefore, its potential health risks outweigh its advantages. Try replacing unhealthy oils with healthier ones like coconut or olive oil when possible.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.