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Have you been consuming soybean oil in your diet? If yes, then give it a second thought. A recent report by researchers from University of California Riverside, including one of Indian origin, has suggested that widely consumed soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes but may also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression. The study, conducted on mice, was published in the journal Endocrinology. In the study, the scientists found pronounced effects of the soybean oil on the hypothalamus where a number of critical processes take place. They discovered nearly 100 genes, including the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin produced in hypothalamus, getting affected by the soybean oil diet.
According to Margarita Curras-Collazo, an associate professor of neuroscience and lead author of the study, “The hypothalamus regulates body weight via your metabolism, maintains body temperature, is critical for reproduction and physical growth as well as your response to stress.” However, the research team has not yet pointed out which chemicals in the oil are responsible for the changes they found in the hypothalamus. But the study noted that they have ruled out two candidates. It is not linoleic acid, since the modified oil also produced genetic disruptions; nor is it stigmasterol, a cholesterol-like chemical found naturally in soybean oil. Identifying the compounds responsible for the negative effects is an important area for the team’s future research.
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The team compared mice which were fed with three different diets high in fat: soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid, and coconut oil. “This could help design healthier dietary oils in the future,” said Poonamjot Deol, first author of the study. “It is important to note there is no proof the oil causes these diseases,” the authors wrote.
They believe this discovery could have ramifications not just for energy metabolism, but also for proper brain function and diseases such as autism or Parkinson’s disease. Deol stated, “If there’s one message I want people to take away, it’s this: reduce consumption of soybean oil.”
This is the same team of researchers who in 2015 found that soybean oil induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Then in a 2017 study, the same group learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces less obesity and insulin resistance.
It is important to note that the team said the findings only apply to soybean oil- not to other soy products or to other vegetable oils. “Do not throw out your tofu, soymilk, edamame, or soy sauce,” said Frances Sladek, a UCR toxicologist and professor of cell biology, adding, “Many soy products only contain small amounts of the oil, and large amounts of healthful compounds such as essential fatty acids and proteins”.
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