Soybean Oil: It May Increase Obesity Risk More Than Fructose

First Posted: Jul 23, 2015 02:06 PM EDT

A new study presented by researchers at the University of California at Riverside shows that soybean oil may further increase obesity risk over a high fructose diet.

"This was a major surprise for us - that soybean oil is causing more obesity and diabetes than fructose - especially when you see headlines everyday about the potential role of sugar consumption in the current obesity epidemic," researcher Poonamjot Deol said in a news release.

The latest research used an animal study to determine if a high soybean diet increased levels of weight gain and diabetes when in mice used in the study when compared to a high fructose diet or high coconut oil diet.

The consumption of soybean oil has greatly increased in the United States in the last four decades alone due to a number of factors, including results from studies that encourage people to reduce their intake of saturated fats commonly found in dairy products and meat. This increase or intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in plant oils, including soybean oil.

During the study, researchers fed mice a series of four diets that contained 40 percent fat, which is similar to what Americans consume today. One diet used coconut oil which mostly consists of saturated fat. The second study, however, had half of the coconut oil used replaced with soybean oil, which contains primarily polyunsaturated fats and is the main ingredient in vegetable oil-also corresponding with the same amount of soybean oil that Americans consume.

Findings revealed that mice on the soybean oil-enriched diet gained about 25 percent more weight than counterparts on the coconut diet. Furthermore, mice on the soybean diet also gained about 9 percent more weight than those on the fructose-enriched diet. And the mice on the fructose-enriched diet gained 12 percent more weight than those on a coconut oil rich diet.

Researchers also found that mice on the high coconut oil diet showed signs of increased weight gain, a fatty liver with signs of injury, larger fat deposits, diabetes and insulin resistance--all of which are associated with metabolic syndrome.

Fructose in the diet had less severe metabolic effects than soybean oil although it did cause more negative effects in the kidney and a marked increase in prolapse.

The findings are detailed in the journal PLOS One.

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