When you’re doctor orders bloodwork to check your cholesterol levels, you probably realize immediately that they’re making sure you’re not at risk for heart disease.
After all, the medical community tells us that high cholesterol and heart problems go hand-in-hand.
But, did you know that high cholesterol is also a risk factor for a number of other health problems you probably would never even think of in relation to that fat running around your bloodstream?
Well, it’s true…
High cholesterol levels are also associated with:
- Gallstones – If you’re cholesterol levels are too high, your body can form gallstones, cause abdominal pain and land you in surgery.
- Leg and hand cramps, numbness, tingling or spasms – High cholesterol can affect your blood flow and lead to cramping, numbness, tingling and spams in your extremities.
- Headaches – If you have headaches with pain concentrated in the back of your head, high cholesterol could be to blame since it is reported to clog the blood vessels around your head.
And, unfortunately, if you do have high cholesterol, your chances of health complications once you’re put on medication to bring it down may not get any better.
That’s because statin drugs come with more than enough of their own risks to make up the difference, including liver damage, blood sugar problems, and neurological damage.
A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia and published in the journal Nutrition Research has provided insight into a potential new oil to lower our cholesterol levels without medication.
Two oils tested head-to-head
Researchers wanted to see if the effects of eating a high-fat diet on cholesterol levels could be combatted by adding healthy oil to the diet. They decided to test two oils in a head-to-head face off…
Of course, they decided that olive oil would be one of the oils tested since it’s the first one we all think about when it comes to health, especially heart health. However, the second oil they decided to include in the challenge will probably surprise you – cottonseed oil.
They conducted a five-day outpatient feeding trial of 15 healthy, normal weight men. The subjects, between the ages of 18 and 45, were provided high-fat meals for five days in two separate, tightly controlled trials, the only difference being the use of either cottonseed oil or olive oil in the meals.
And, the results were clear.
While adding olive oil to their diets resulted in minimal positive changes, participants in the cottonseed oil group showed significant reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides.
In fact, the cottonseed oil group saw:
- An average decrease of 8 percent in total cholesterol
- A 15 percent decrease in low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (the “bad” cholesterol)
- A 30 percent decrease in triglycerides
The diet also increased high-density lipoproteins or HDL (the “good” cholesterol) by 8 percent.
According to Jamie Cooper, an associate professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ department of foods and nutrition and the author of the journal article, “One of the reasons these results were so surprising is because of the magnitude of change observed with the cottonseed oil diet. To see this amount of change in such a short period of time is exciting.”
How cottonseed oil works to lower cholesterol
The researchers say that cottonseed oil acts to lower your cholesterol levels in two ways…
First, its high levels of polyunsaturated fat and omega-6 levels provide known benefits to your lipid levels.
And second, it contains a fatty acid unique to the oil called dihydrosterculic acid — that appears to help prevent the accumulation of triglycerides.
Professor Cooper says that “By doing that, it pushes the body to burn more of that fat because it can’t store it properly, so you have less lipid and cholesterol accumulation.”
Now, cottonseed oil is not without controversy…
It has been called the world’s dirtiest crop and undergoes intensive chemical refining. But, it’s widely used in the food industry because of its “pleasant taste.”
If you’re committed to eating non-GMO foods and products, you may be out of luck when it comes to cottonseed oil, unless this research creates some momentum that might inspire non-GMO farming and production for it. For now, we’d recommend sticking to olive oil.
- Gallstones — Mayo Clinic
- 7 Unexpected Signs You Have High Cholesterol — Urgent Medical Center, Inc.
- Warning Signs Of High Cholesterol Levels — MaxCure Hospitals
- Statin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks — Mayo Clinic
- Study links cottonseed oil with lower cholesterol — American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)