Our understanding of nutrition science has changed a tremendous amount since the late 20th century. Remember when margarine was considered a vastly superior alternative to butter? When fats, including plant-based oil, were the bane of any healthy eater’s existence? When health nuts couldn’t get far enough away from eggs, or tree nuts, for that matter?
These days, we know that butter is preferable to margarine (though still not great for you), certain fats are beneficial in moderation, and the positive protein power of eggs far outweighs their dubious cholesterol content.
And we’re learning more all the time. In the past few years, new food science research has uncovered a host of health benefits for one of recent history’s most maligned vegetable oils: cottonseed oil. Here’s a quick look at the latest thinking on this surprisingly healthy and ever-versatile cooking aid.
Memory and Cognition Benefits
No one’s saying cottonseed that oil is the next gingko biloba. However, recent research suggests that nutrients found in cottonseed oil contribute to a healthy brain and great nerve function. Vitamin E, the most plentiful vitamin by far in this nutrient-rich oil, helps the nervous system to repair the fatty sheaths that encase neurons to ensure the swift, faithful delivery of signals sent along the body’s natural fiber-optic system.
Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that slows the formation and progression of harmful molecules known as free radicals. Free radicals are implicated in the formation of neurological cancers, including gliomas and other high-mortality brain malignancies. While cottonseed oil doesn’t singlehandedly prevent the development of progression of cancer, a diet high in Vitamin E has been shown to provide marginal benefit in this department.
Cottonseed oil has a number of related cardiovascular benefits. Vitamin E plays a role here as well; in addition to promoting brain health, this all-purpose vitamin helps blood vessels to repair themselves, and slows the progression of cardiovascular disease. What’s more, a recent, well-publicized Texas Women’s University study found that regular cottonseed intake correlates with an increased Vitamin E uptake. This suggests that cottonseed oil is a more efficient delivery vehicle for heart-healthy Vitamin E than some other vegetable oils.
Cottonseed oil’s ample stores of Vitamin E, coupled with its unique mix of other beneficial fats, make it great for your skin. No, you don’t need to dab it onto your face direct from the bottle, but you’d probably be surprised to learn just how many cosmetic products it can be found in. Some folks assume that cottonseed oil is merely used as a cosmetic stabilizer, but it’s also a gentle exfoliant, and wrinkle reducer, too.
More Uses for Cottonseed Oil Ahead?
Science isn’t for the impatient. Most research involves a tremendous amount of painstaking data collection, not to mention a host of nail-biting, trial-and-error laden attempts to arrive at reproducible results.
It’s important for laypeople to remember that testing a hypothesis is far easier in theory than in practice; even if something intuitively makes sense, that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to work as expected.
That said, the scientific community fully expects to uncover new and unexpected uses for cotton and cottonseed in the months and years ahead. Some are likely to have little to do with human health, and many won’t be edible in the traditional sense, but all promise to keep cotton relevant. By highlighting new and different uses for an age-old plant, science can enrich humanity’s understanding of its relationship to the natural world.