While coconut oil has long been demonized for being high in saturated fats, and therefore inherently 'unhealthy'; a new study has revealed that soybean oil could be leading to more obesity than coconut oil and also fructose, a sugar commonly found in soda and processed foods.
Researchers at University of California, Riverside, conducted an experiment on mice and found that a diet high in soybean oil could lead to obesity and diabetes more than a diet high in fructose. The mice on the soybean oil-enriched diet gained almost 25% more weight than the mice on the coconut oil diet and 9% more weight than those on the fructose-enriched diet. And the mice on the fructose-enriched diet gained 12% more weight than those on a coconut oil rich diet.
Assistant project scientist Poonamjot Deol who directed the project said, "The findings was a major surprise, especially as headlines about the potential role of sugar consumption in the current obesity epidemic appeared every day."
The study findings also suggest that soybean oil significantly affects the expression of many genes that metabolize drugs and other foreign compounds that enter the body, suggesting that a soybean oil-enriched diet could affect one's response to drugs and environmental toxins, if humans show the same response as mice. The researchers cautioned that they did not study the impacts of the diets on cardiovascular diseases and noted that the consumption of vegetable oils could be beneficial for cardiac health, even if it also induces obesity and diabetes.
The research team also noted that there are many different types of saturated and unsaturated fats. This is particularly true for the saturated fats in animal products that were associated with heart disease in the studies in the 1960s- they tend to have a longer chain length than the saturated fats in coconut oil. That study found that the new genetically modified, high oleic soybean oil (Plenish), which has a lower amount of polyunsaturated fatty acid than traditional soybean oil, is healthier than regular soybean oil but just barely.
The paper is published in the PLOS ONE.