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, report researchers from University of California Riverside, including one of Indian origin.
Used for fast food frying, added to packaged foods, and fed to livestock, soybean oil is by far the most widely produced and consumed edible oil in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The oil was found to impact the brain’s hypothalamus region in mice fed diets high in soybean oil, including the modified low-linoleic acid version.
The consumption of soybean oil seemed to have impaired the ability of around 100 genes to function properly in the mice, according to the study. One such gene is responsible for oxytocin, the hormone most commonly referred to as the body’s ‘love’ drug. These changes were only associated with soybean oil, however, not other soy products like soy milk nor other cooking oils.
“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,” said Margarita Curras-Collazo, a UCR associate professor of neuroscience and lead author on the study.
The researchers note some limitations related to their work, namely that it was limited to male mice. Additional research is necessary involving female mice to see how these gene changes may impact things like maternal bonding, which is tightly linked to oxytocin levels. As well, it’s unclear which compound in the oil is having this effect — all the study can say for sure is that it is neither linoleic acid nor stigmasterol that is causing the negative changes.