Does Soybean Oil Causes Genetic Changes to Metabolism in the Human Brain

Over the past several years, health experts have advised against using too much vegetable oil in your cooking. As such, many people have turned to alternatives when they prepare food for their families. Among these alternative oils is soybean oil, which might seem like an excellent option. A new study, however, argues that soybean oil may not only contribute to obesity and diabetes, but could also—and more importantly—increase risk for the development of neurological conditions like autism and even Alzheimer’s disease.  

According to researchers at the University of California – Riverside, soybean oil is a popular choice for frying fast food but is also added to packaged food and even fed to livestock all over the world.  

The study analyzed the results of different diets fed to mice in a laboratory setting.  Each population was fed a specific diet high in a type of oil:  soybean oil, soybean that has been modified to have low linoleic acid, and coconut oil.  These were chosen specifically because a different study, in 2015, found that soybean oil appears to increase obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and insulin resistance risk in mice.  Similarly, another 2017 study suggested that the low-linoleic acid soybean oil induces lower levels of obesity and insulin resistance. 

This most recent study, however, argues there is no difference between the effect modified and unmodified soybean oil has on the brain.  Instead, they identified pronounced effect of this oil on the hypothalamus, which is a region of the brain where several critical processes occur.  

Lead study author Margarita Curras-Collazo is an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of California-Riverside.  She explains, “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.”

In addition, UCR toxicologist and professor of cell biology, Frances Sladek, advises that there is no need to discard any tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, or edamame you might have in your home.  He attests, “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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