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Is High Oleic Soybean Oil Bad For You?



Short answer

High Oleic Soybean Oil (HOSO) can offer health benefits, particularly for heart health due to its high monounsaturated fat content and reduced polyunsaturated fats, which might lower bad cholesterol levels. HOSO is stable at high temperatures, reducing the risk of oxidative byproducts during cooking. Its GMO origin and the soy allergen potential should be considered. Overall, when used in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, HOSO is not bad for most people, but individual dietary needs and preferences should guide its use.



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Long answer

High Oleic Soybean Oil: Composition and Health Claims

When discussing the health implications of oils, understanding their composition becomes critically essential. High Oleic Soybean Oil (HOSO) is engineered to have a higher content of monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid. The modification in traditional soybean oil, which traditionally contains higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, is aimed at improving the oil's stability and extending its shelf life.

Let's break down the primary components found in HOSO:

  • Oleic Acid: This monounsaturated fatty acid makes up approximately 70-75% of HOSO. Oleic acid is known for its stability and resistance to heat, making it suitable for high-temperature cooking. It is also associated with potential health benefits such as reducing LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) levels, thereby potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats: HOSO still contains some polyunsaturated fats, including linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid), albeit in lesser quantities compared to conventional soybean oil. While essential for the body, excessive omega-6 consumption can lead to an imbalance with omega-3 fats, which can be pro-inflammatory.
  • Saturated Fats: This oil contains a lesser amount of saturated fats compared to other edible oils. Saturated fats have been implicated in raising cholesterol levels, which could contribute to heart disease.
  • Vitamin E: HOSO has Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect the body from oxidative damage and supports immune function.

Health claims surrounding HOSO are numerous and are primarily focused on its heart-health benefits. Improvements in lipid profiles, stemming from the high monounsaturated fat content, make it appealing for those looking to manage cholesterol levels. Moreover, due to its high smoke point, it's often marketed as being better for high-heat cooking, which might reduce the risk of producing harmful byproducts associated with oils that oxidize easily when heated.

Research supporting the claims includes:

  • A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicating that replacing saturated fats with oleic acid may reduce cardiovascular risk by decreasing the total and LDL cholesterol levels.
  • The American Heart Association's statement that monounsaturated fats are a heart-healthy choice when consumed in moderation and when used to replace saturated or trans fats.

Yet, these health claims require a careful examination of the broader dietary context and consider how overall diet quality, balance, and individual health needs intersect. While HOSO might offer some advantages over traditional soybean oil, its impact on health is part of a larger tapestry of nutritional habits and choices.

Comparison with Traditional Soybean Oil

Understanding the difference between high oleic soybean oil and traditional soybean oil is crucial when deciding which may be a better option for your health. To elucidate, let's delve into the compositional contrasts and health implications of these two oils.

Fatty Acid Profile:

Traditional soybean oil typically contains a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats, particularly linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), which is prone to oxidation when heated. High oleic soybean oil, on the other hand, has been genetically modified to contain more monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid. This modification leads to enhanced stability and heat resistance, making it more suitable for high-temperature cooking and prolonged shelf life.

Stability and Oxidation:

Oxidative stability is a significant difference between these oils. High oleic soybean oil is less likely to oxidize because of its lower polyunsaturated fat content. Oxidation can lead to the formation of harmful compounds such as trans fats and free radicals, which are associated with various health issues, including cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

Health Implications:

Some research suggests that a diet high in monounsaturated fats, like oleic acid, may be associated with reduced risk of heart disease. For instance, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition observed that monounsaturated fat intake was inversely related to cardiovascular risk.

In contrast, traditional soybean oil's higher polyunsaturated fat content, and specifically omega-6 fatty acids, has been linked with inflammation when consumed in excess, as noted by an article in the Biochimie journal. The typical Western diet already provides a disproportionate amount of omega-6s compared to omega-3s, which can further exacerbate this issue. Therefore, choosing an oil with a more balanced fatty acid profile, such as high oleic soybean oil, may help manage this imbalance.

It's important to note that the health benefits of high oleic soybean oil compared to traditional soybean oil may vary depending on individual dietary patterns, genetic predispositions, and overall lifestyle. Consulting with healthcare professionals is advisable when making significant changes to dietary fat intake.

Environmental and Ethical Considerations:

High oleic soybean oil production involves genetic modification, which brings up ecological and ethical debates. The environmental impacts of cultivating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are complex, and opinions on their safety and sustainability vary widely. It is vital to consider personal values and the latest scientific consensus when choosing between these oils.

When analyzing whether high oleic soybean oil is bad for you compared to traditional soybean oil, it's essential to assess the nuanced differences in their compositions and consider the broader implications of their use. By scrutinizing both the nutritional profiles and the larger ethical and environmental contexts, consumers can make more informed decisions aligned with their health goals and values.

The Controversy Surrounding GMOs in High Oleic Soybean Oil

One significant point of discussion when addressing the consumption of high oleic soybean oil is its connection to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A considerable proportion of high oleic soybean crops are genetically engineered to enhance their desirable properties, such as the oleic acid content and the crop's resistance to certain pests and herbicides. This genetic alteration aims to provide a heart-healthier oil and increased crop yield, making it a cost-effective option for producers.

However, the topic of GMOs in the food supply is contentious. Advocates argue that GMOs are not inherently harmful and can contribute to food security by increasing crop resilience and reducing the use of chemical pesticides, which benefits the environment. They cite authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Medical Association, which have stated that genetically modified foods currently available on the market are safe to eat.

On the flip side, critics of GMOs express concerns on different fronts. One primary worry is about the long-term health effects of consuming GMOs, which they argue haven't been studied extensively over multiple generations. The notion that GMO crops may lead to an increase in the prevalence of certain allergies or contribute to antibiotic resistance remains a subject of ongoing research.

Moreover, there's an ecological aspect to the debate. Opponents believe that GMO crops can lead to a reduction in biodiversity and may inadvertently affect non-target organisms. This could potentially upset ecological balances and lead to unforeseen environmental consequences.

Consumer choice also plays a role in the controversy. Some individuals prefer to consume non-GMO foods and thus demand clear labeling on products containing GMOs. The debate extends to the effectiveness and transparency of such labeling practices. There is also an ethical argument, as some consumers oppose the idea of manipulating the genetic makeup of our food for philosophical or religious reasons.

From a regulatory standpoint, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are responsible for the oversight of GMOs. These bodies have established guidelines and regulations to ensure the safety and labeling of GMO foods, including high oleic soybean oil.

Recent studies evaluating the safety of GMOs include research published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, which examines the health impact of genetically modified foods in animal models. While there is substantial literature indicating safety, the field is dynamic and subject to new findings.

Given the complexities surrounding GMOs, it's imperative for consumers to be informed about the origin and production methods of the high oleic soybean oil they consume. This includes understanding the regulatory framework that governs GMO crops and the scientific evidence that supports or refutes the safety and environmental impact claims.

Omega Fatty Acid Balance and Its Importance

The delicate balance of omega fatty acids in our diet is a significant health consideration. These essential fats, which our body cannot synthesize on its own, play a critical role in numerous physiological processes. We'll specifically look at omega-3, omega-6, and the concerns surrounding their ratio in the context of high oleic soybean oil consumption.

Omega-3 fatty acids, primarily found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties and are crucial for brain health. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are present in many plant-based oils and processed foods. While also essential, they can be pro-inflammatory when consumed in excess and without the counterbalancing effects of omega-3s.

Scientific research highlights the importance of maintaining a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. An ideal ratio is believed to range from 1:1 to 4:1; however, in the Western diet, this ratio has been heavily skewed towards omega-6s, with averages reported as high as 16:1. This imbalance has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, and inflammatory conditions.

High oleic soybean oil, specifically engineered to be higher in monounsaturated fats (like oleic acid) and lower in polyunsaturated fats, does impact this balance. Traditional soybean oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. By reducing the overall levels of polyunsaturated fats, high oleic soybean oil could potentially help in rebalancing the typical omega fatty acid intake.

Yet, it's important to note that while improving the monounsaturated fat content, high oleic soybean oil does not inherently increase omega-3s, which are necessary to counterbalance the still-present omega-6s. For individuals aiming to correct their omega fatty acid ratio, it remains crucial to intentionally include rich sources of omega-3s in the diet. A list of omega-3 rich foods is provided below:

  • Fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, sardines)
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Hemp seeds
  • Seaweed and algae

Incorporating high oleic soybean oil as a replacement for traditional soybean oil or other high omega-6 oils may be a positive step, but it is not a complete solution to addressing the omega fatty acid balance. Nutrition experts and dietitians recommend a comprehensive approach to diet that includes monitoring the types and sources of fats consumed. Furthermore, there is an emerging understanding that the absolute levels of essential fatty acids and their ratio may both be important, suggesting a nuanced approach should be taken in dietary planning.

While high oleic soybean oil may offer some advantages over traditional soybean oil in terms of its fatty acid composition, it does not eliminate the need for dietary omega-3 intake. It's essential for individuals to be mindful of their entire dietary pattern to ensure a proper balance that supports overall health.

Potential Oxidative Stability and Cooking Safety

Oxidative stability is a term that refers to how resistant an oil is to reacting with oxygen, a process that can lead to rancidity and the formation of harmful compounds. A high oxidative stability is desirable for cooking oils because it means the oil can be used at higher temperatures without breaking down and creating unhealthy by-products.

High oleic soybean oil has been developed to contain a higher percentage of monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid, as compared to traditional soybean oil. Monounsaturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, which are found in greater amounts in conventional soybean oil. This quality extends the shelf life of the oil and makes it less prone to oxidative degradation at high temperatures.

Studies show that high oleic soybean oil has a higher smoking point, which is the temperature at which an oil starts to smoke and break down, than many other cooking oils. The smoking point can easily surpass 232°C (450°F), making it suitable for high-heat cooking methods, such as frying and sautéing. For example, a study published in the Journal of Food Science indicates that high oleic soybean oils display greater resistance to oxidation and polymerization during high-temperature applications compared to oils with higher levels of polyunsaturated fats.

Furthermore, when oils oxidize, they can form harmful compounds like aldehydes, ketones, and trans fats. A comparison in the Food Research International journal suggests that high oleic soybean oil's resistance to oxidation leads to lower formation of these unwanted compounds during cooking.

It's important to note, however, that while high oleic soybean oil shows promise in terms of oxidative stability and safety when used for cooking, no oil is entirely immune to degradation. Cooks should always avoid heating any oil to the point of smoking and should be aware of proper storage techniques to maintain the quality and safety of the oil. This includes keeping the oil in a cool, dark place and ensuring the container is tightly sealed to minimize exposure to air.

  • Higher percentage of monounsaturated fats for increased stability
  • Higher smoking point ideal for high-heat cooking methods
  • Reduced formation of harmful oxidation by-products
  • Extended shelf life compared to conventional soybean oil

While these points indicate that high oleic soybean oil may be a safer option for cooking at high temperatures compared to other vegetable oils, it is crucial for consumers to understand that all oils have their limitations and proper usage and storage are key for maintaining their safety profiles.

Allergen Considerations with Soybean Oil Products

For individuals with food allergies, especially those pertaining to soy, it's vital to understand the potential health implications of consuming soybean oil products. Soy is one of the eight most common food allergens, affecting both adults and children.

High oleic soybean oil is a type of soybean oil that has been genetically modified to increase its monounsaturated fat content—particularly oleic acid—at the expense of polyunsaturated fats. While many health professionals consider high oleic oils to be a healthier alternative due to their stability and potential cardiovascular benefits, it's crucial to understand how these benefits weigh against potential allergenic risks.

Refined vs. Unrefined Soybean Oil:

  • Refined soybean oil – Generally considered to be hypoallergenic because the refining process removes the majority of soy proteins responsible for triggering allergic reactions. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology suggests that most soy-allergic individuals can safely consume refined soybean oil.
  • Unrefined or cold-pressed soybean oil – Contains more of the soy proteins that can cause allergic reactions. Though it retains more of the soy's original nutrients, it is not recommended for those with soy allergies.

The conversation around allergens also extends to the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As many high oleic soybean oils are products of genetic modification, this can represent an additional consideration for those wary of GMOs in their diet due to personal preferences or specific health concerns.

Labeling Laws:

In the United States, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) necessitates clear labeling of all food products that contain major allergens, including soy. However, highly refined oils derived from allergenic foods are exempt from this labeling requirement. This means, at times, people allergic to soy could inadvertently consume it through refined high oleic soybean oil present in processed foods.

How to Avoid Allergic Reactions:

  • Always read labels thoroughly to check for the presence of soy or soybean oil, even if the oil is refined.
  • Be aware of legal exemptions; certain products may contain soybean oil without it being explicitly mentioned on the label.
  • If eating out or purchasing prepared foods, ask about cooking oils and potential cross-contamination with soy products.
  • Consult a healthcare provider or an allergist for personalized advice if you have a soy allergy and are considering adding high oleic soybean oil to your diet.

Emerging Research:

Research into food allergens and genetically modified foods is continuously evolving. Recent studies aim to assess not only the allergenic potential of refined oils like high oleic soybean oil but also the possibility of introducing new allergens through genetic engineering.

For instance, a 2018 study in Food Chemistry examined the allergenicity of oils derived from genetically modified plants, concluding that refining processes typically reduce allergen levels but that individual sensitivities can vary significantly.

Ultimately, it's essential for consumers with soy allergy concerns to maintain a dialogue with health professionals and stay informed on the latest research to make safe dietary decisions regarding high oleic soybean oil and other soy products.

Frequently asked questions

High oleic soybean oil production often involves genetic modification, raising environmental and ethical concerns. Questions about the impacts of GMO cultivation on biodiversity and ecosystem balance are still subjects of debate. Consumers concerned with the ecological implications of their food choices might take into account the sustainability practices of the brands they purchase and consider oils certified as non-GMO or organically produced.

High oleic soybean oil can impact the omega fatty acid balance by providing a lower content of polyunsaturated fats, which include omega-6 fatty acids, and a higher content of monounsaturated fats. While this may help reduce the excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids common in Western diets, high oleic soybean oil itself does not increase omega-3 fatty acids. To improve the omega fatty acid ratio, it's important to consciously include omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish and flaxseeds in your diet.

High oleic soybean oil may be considered a healthier option compared to traditional cooking oils due to its higher monounsaturated fat content, specifically oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats are known for their potential to improve lipid profiles and lower 'bad' cholesterol levels, which can reduce cardiovascular risk. Additionally, because of its enhanced stability and high smoke point, high oleic soybean oil is less likely to form harmful compounds when used in high-heat cooking.

To preserve the quality and safety of high oleic soybean oil, store it in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to minimize exposure to air. This will help prevent the oil from becoming rancid and developing off-flavors or harmful compounds due to oxidation. Proper storage also extends the shelf life of the oil, maintaining its nutritional benefits.

Ask a question about High Oleic Soybean Oil and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible long-term side effects

  • potential inflammation from omega-6
  • possible gmo-related health concerns

Ingredients to be aware of

  • genetically modified organisms (gmos)
  • potential allergens in unrefined soybean oil


  • reduces ldl cholesterol
  • high smoke point suitable for cooking
  • contains vitamin e
  • may improve omega fatty acid balance
  • more stable at high temperatures

Healthier alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Canola Oil

  • Expeller-pressed extraction
  • Non-GMO canola seeds
  • Free from pesticides
  • Chemical-free
  • High-heat cooking oil
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

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