Take a look at the ingredients on the back of your food labels. Chances are that most of your products contain soybean oil. It’s not an oil we often think about, but it is the most widely consumed. It’s present in everything from cereal to peanut butter, bread to vegetarian meat substitutes, and much more.
You can also find soybean oil in drink mixes, canned tuna, gum, and cold cuts. There is an extensive list of foods that contain the ingredient, and anyone with a soy allergy can tell you it’s hard to avoid. But, research says that soybean oil may have a link to chronic diseases and health problems.
Research on Soybean Oil and the Brain
Soy interacts with the brain in a way that not many other sources of food are capable of. The University of California Riverside found that soybean oil may have adverse effects on the hypothalamus region of the brain, a vital part of our existence. The university conducted a study in mice, and while they have not yet set out to monitor the effect on humans, the evidence seems daunting.
The hypothalamus is responsible for some crucial tasks in the body. It helps the nervous system communicate with the endocrine system, regulating motor function, sensory information, and more.
The university states that while soybean oil did impact more than 100 genes in the brains of mice, the same effects may not transfer to humans. So while the preliminary findings are alarming, there is no reason for panic to sink in.
It is also important to note that the results only showed a negative connotation associated with soybean oil, and not products containing soy themselves (such as edamame or soy milk).
Other Risks Associated with Soybean Oil
A prior study of mice conducted by the University of California Riverside found that increased consumption of soybean oil led to a more significant chance of developing insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease.
Again, current studies are mainly on animals, and the university warns individuals to wait for further testing before eliminating soybean oil from their diets entirely.
However, soybean oil is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are in many common foods, such as vegetable oil, and can increase blood pressure, increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. So there is reason to be wary of how much soybean oil you consume.
Why the Research is Cause for Concern
Although the study has not been confirmed in humans, it does raise questions and poses significant concern if the results are concurrent. The hypothalamic region in the brain plays a role in many cognitive functions, and any damage can lead to severe adverse effects on the body and mind.
Studies show that when there’s damage in the hypothalamus, it can cause psychotic depression. Psychotic depression is especially dangerous as it may include delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations. If soybean oil causes damage to this area of the brain, the likelihood of experiencing depression symptoms will increase in those who consume large amounts.
This region in the brain is also responsible for much of the communication that takes place within the central nervous system. Damage to the hypothalamus may increase anxiety. The hypothalamus is located deep within our brains and controls our innate fight-or-flight response. When this happens, the fight-or-flight instinct can kick in when unnecessary, causing panic attacks or generalized anxiety disorder.
Other studies link Parkinson’s disease with dysfunction in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls body temperature and fine motor skills. Those with Parkinson’s disease often show impaired heat tolerance, rigid muscles, loss of movement, tremors, and more. If soybean oil does damage this region of the human brain, it can increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is another degenerative brain disease that is linked to the hypothalamus. The precise cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known, but studies show that the damage of neurons in the hypothalamus may play a significant role.
There is also no single cause for autism that researchers can identify, though there are links to dysfunction in the brain. Studies show that individuals with autism have a different structural appearance of the hypothalamus region.
Soybean oil is often found in baby formula, and while it is not a proven fact that the two are linked, further research may be done to see if there is a connection.
What to Do
All of the information regarding soybean oil and the human brain can be a lot to take in. You may have questions wondering what is safe, what isn’t, and what to do moving forward. Unfortunately, science does not yet have a concrete answer, though future studies are likely to reveal more.
But, as soybean oil is high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which are scientifically proven to have adverse effects on human health when they are consumed in excess, it’s smart to limit your intake.
What to Eat Instead
If you’re looking to avoid soybean oil in your diet, consume as many fresh foods as possible. Soybean oil is typically found in processed foods. Its purpose is to help foods retain moisture. It also acts as a binding ingredient, which is why it is so prevalent in vegetarian meat substitutes.
The best way to avoid soybean oil, whether you have an allergy or worry about the potential health effects, is to closely read all food labels and make the switch to non-processed foods.
The research shows that foods that are made with only soybeans, and not the processed oil, did not have the same negative neural effects in mice. Soybeans themselves also showed no significant health risk in rodents.
At GR8NESS, we’re all about consuming fresh foods rich in nutrients. And we love to share insight with our readers. There is no shortage of resources available to help you get as many fresh foods into your daily meal routine as possible.
Eating a healthy diet with non-processed foods has significant positive effects on your overall health and well-being. Not only can it help manage weight, but it can increase your energy and improve your mood.
Check out these articles for tips on how to get more fresh foods daily:
- Fresh foods that double as GR8 hydration
- Fresh juice recipes that improve digestion
- The best fresh leafy greens for your health
- The 8 best superfoods
- Natural juices to improve energy
Switching to a diet with more fresh foods, compared to processed foods, is also a GR8 way to improve gut health.
Alternative Cooking Oils
Soybean oil is just one of many vegetable oils. There are lots of other vegetable oils that are perfectly healthy to keep in your cabinets and use in your food.
The healthiest cooking oils include:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Canola Oil
The Bottom Line
The bottom line when it comes to soybean oil is that, even without the potential connection to neurological and mental health issues, it’s not the healthiest product to consume. It does pose a risk to your cardiovascular system when eaten in excess, and it’s best to steer clear if you have underlying issues such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
So while early research suggests that soybean oil may have potential cognitive effects, there is no reason to toss all your food. Instead, be mindful of what you eat, opt for fresh whenever possible, and keep an eye out for future studies that substantiate any further danger that soybean oil may pose towards humans.