A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition is the first to show that consumption of a diet enriched with cottonseed oil improved blood lipid values in adults with Hypercholesterolemia.

The fatty acid composition of foods can impact both fasting and post-meal blood lipids. While high intakes of saturated fatty acids tend to have unfavorable effects on blood lipid profiles, unsaturated fatty acids can have a favorable impact. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that polyunsaturated fatty acids intake can have a stronger effect on lowering blood lipids compared to monounsaturated fatty acids.  Olive oil, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, is generally considered heart healthy.  However, it may be less effective at lowering blood lipid compared to other plant oils such as cottonseed oil.  Cottonseed oil is a rich dietary source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and has been shown to improve lipid profiles in healthy, young adults. 

To better understand the impact of a diet enriched with either cottonseed oil or olive oil on blood lipids, researcher Jamie Cooper (University of Georgia) and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical 8-week intervention trial in hypercholesterolemic adults.  Forty-three men and women were given meals and snacks accounting for approximately 60% of their daily energy needs, with 30% of energy needs from either cottonseed oil or olive oil. To determine if the intervention diets had a lasting effect, participants consumed a high-saturated fatty acid meal challenge at pre- and post-diet intervention visits.

Study results showed that consumption of a diet enriched with cottonseed oil for 8 weeks resulted in significant improvements in blood lipids including lower total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein, and apolipoprotein B, in adults with hypercholesterolemia. Cottonseed oil diet enrichment also suppressed post-meal non-esterified fatty acids following the intervention. The only changes in the olive oil diet were improvements in fasting high density lipoproteins and the total cholesterol-to-high density lipoprotein ratio, which improved similarly with the cottonseed oil diet, and a worsening of the post-meal triglyceride response to a saturated fatty acid-rich meal.  Taken together, this study provides evidence that cottonseed oil has a greater effect than olive oil for blood lipid improvements in an at-risk population.

The results of this study are clinically meaningful because the magnitude of reduction in low density lipoprotein cholesterol by cottonseed oils (12.2%) could correspond to a 14.6 to 21.4% reduction in coronary artery disease risk. Additionally, the reductions in post-meal non-esterified fatty acids provide further protection during the fed state. The incorporation of cottonseed oil is a potentially ideal nutritional therapeutic for adults with hypercholesterolemia.


M Catherine Prater, Alexis R Scheurell, Chad M Paton, Jamie A Cooper, Blood Lipid Responses to Diets Enriched with Cottonseed Oil Compared With Olive Oil in Adults with High Cholesterol in a Randomized Trial, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 9, September 2022, Pages 2060–2071, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxac099.

Images via canva.com.