The consumption of vegetable oils which are rich in an essential nutrient called linoleic acid (LA) is not linked to an increased risk of inflammation, according to researchers at the University of Missouri (UM).

We have known for years that linoleic acid helps lower cholesterol levels as well as reducing the risk of developing heart disease.

However, there have been recent claims that Americans may be consuming too much vegetable oil. A previous study suggested that fish oils reduce inflammation but vegetable oils do not.

Canola Oil bottle

This latest study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, titled “Effect of Dietary Linoleic Acid on Markers of Inflammation in Healthy Persons: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials,”, says that such claims are false, and concludes that vegetable oil is very good for you and doesn’t cause inflammation.

The researchers, from the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois, found no association between vegetable oil consumption and circulating indicators of inflammation, which can cause diseases such as cancer and asthma.

Even though earlier animal studies suggested that linoleic acid can cause inflammation, Kevin Fritsche, an animal sciences researcher, says that the human response is very different.

Fritsche said:

“In the field of nutrition and health, animals aren’t people. We’re not saying that you should just go out and consume vegetable oil freely. However, our evidence does suggest that you can achieve a heart-healthy diet by using soybean, canola, corn and sunflower oils instead of animal-based fats when cooking.”

Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is a major component of vegetable oils and provides a number of nutrients – it makes up more than half of most vegetable oils.

Fritsche said that it is evident that consuming LA (linoleic acid) doesn’t increase our risk of inflammation.

Fritsche commented:

“Some previous studies have shown that inflammation, which is an immune response in the body, can occur when certain fats are consumed.

We’ve come to realize that this inflammation, which can occur anywhere in the body, can cause or promote chronic diseases. We know that animal fats can encourage inflammation, but in this study, we’ve been able to rule out vegetable oil as a cause.”

The team analyzed a total of 15 clinical trials, which included 500 adults consuming different forms of fats and oils. They didn’t find any link between a diet rich in linoleic acid and inflammation.

People should continue following the dietary guidelines published by the Institute of Medicine and the American Heart Association, which recommends two to four tablespoons of vegetable oil each day to ensure enough intake of linoleic acid.

Fritsche said that people are usually told to limit and avoid eating certain foods, adding that “while limiting the overall fat intake is also part of the current nutrition recommendations, we hope people will feel comfortable cooking with vegetable oils.”

New low-cost DNA sequencing technology could help promote advances in biofuels and low-calorie food oils, say Michigan State University scientists. This could eventually lead to the production of new high-quality vegetable oils.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist