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Cottonseed Oil: America's Original Vegetable Oil

Warning: This oil comes with potentially damaging side effects due to the ingredient it's made from or the manufacturing process used to extract it. Because these negative effects overshadow the potential benefits, I do not recommend this oil for therapeutic use. Always be aware of the potential side effects of any herbal oil before using.

Among the many crops grown in the United States is cotton. According to the National Cotton Council, roughly 162 pounds of cottonseed are produced for every 100 pounds of fiber.1

The raw cottonseed actually consists of three commodities: linters, which are cotton fibers still clinging to the harvested seeds and which are used to make a variety of products, from paper money to cosmetics to photography film; the hulls, which are pressed into a meal or used as a bulk food in the livestock feed industry; and the kernels inside the hulls, which are crushed to produce the oil.2

As an agriculture product in the U.S., cottonseed oil is considered to be "one of the country's most important sources for vegetable oil," according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.3 While cottonseed oil is also touted by the industry to be "cholesterol-free with a high level of antioxidants," making it a "premium oil" for cooking, baking and use by the processed (snack) food industry,4 fine food magazines such as Bon Appetit warn that it's one of the top three "least healthy" oils for you.5

This is one reason why I would not recommend it as part of your diet. Before I explain my stand, here is what mainstream recommendations say about this vegetable oil.

What Is Cottonseed Oil?

Cottonseed oil is a fairly common vegetable oil in the U.S. and was used as early as the 1800s.6 It was called "America's original vegetable oil" and created a high demand among its consumers.7 Cottonseed oil is similar to canola, corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower in terms of its polyunsaturated fat oil composition.8 In its nonhydrogenated form, it can be used for deep frying to lower the amounts of trans fat in fried foods.9

Uses of Cottonseed Oil

Cottonseed oil is known for its culinary purposes. It's used for frying or baking, and added to salad dressings,10 baked goods, cereals and mayonnaise.11 Because of its neutral taste, cottonseed oil will not mask or overpower the other flavors in your dish, unlike other oils.12 It's a familiar feature of processed foods,13 like potato chips14 and French fries,15 which I absolutely recommend you avoid if you want to achieve optimal health. 

Cottonseed oil is added to margarines, icings and whipped toppings because of its potential to help form beta prime crystal, which gives these food products a smooth and creamy appearance and consistency.16

Cottonseed oil is also added to personal care products such as soap and cosmetics,17lubricants, nail polish removers, fertilizers18 and laundry detergents.19 This oil is even added to soaps used in washing wool. In the first half of the 20th century, cottonseed oil was also used as an excipient in drugs like penicillin and vaccines, but was replaced by peanut oil after cotton seed allergy reactions began being reported.20

Today cottonseed oil is one of many used as emulsifiers and excipients approved for use in a range of drugs and vaccines.21,22

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