Benefits & Side Effects of Corn Oil

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There are a number of potential benefits from corn oil, including its ability to prevent oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, lower “bad” cholesterol, protect the skin, boost vision health and minimize allergic reactions, among others. However, there are also some side effects you need to consider, including weight gain, a higher risk of cancer, and potential toxicity. Some of these side effects are heavily dependent on the type of corn oil you use, and the manner in which it was extracted from the corn itself.

What is Corn Oil?

Corn oil is derived from the germ of the corn plant, one of the most widely grown and relied on crops in the world. Due to this huge availability, it is one of the most inexpensive vegetable oils, and thus one of the most popular. Corn oil can be acquired through an extended process of expeller pressing, refinement, and steam distillation. While this creates an oil that has a very high smoke point, making it ideal for cooking purposes, it also saps many of the beneficial compounds from the oil, in which case, there are few health benefits. That being said, even the unrefined version of this oil is very high in fat and calories and is considered less healthy than many other vegetable oils, such as olive or almond oil. If you want to benefit from using corn oil, seek out varieties that have been cold-pressed, and are labelled organic or unrefined. These will have a lower smoke point, but will also possess the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that provide corn oil’s various health benefits.

Close up of a container filled with corn oil and a small sack of corn surrounded with corn cobs

Nutrition Facts

Oil, corn, industrial and retail, all purpose salad or cooking
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]0
Energy [kcal]900
Protein [g]0
Total lipid (fat) [g]100
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]0
Fiber, total dietary [g]0
Sugars, total [g]0
Calcium, Ca [mg]0
Iron, Fe [mg]0
Magnesium, Mg [mg]0
Phosphorus, P [mg]0
Potassium, K [mg]0
Sodium, Na [mg]0
Zinc, Zn [mg]0
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0
Thiamin [mg]0
Riboflavin [mg]0
Niacin [mg]0
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0
Folate, DFE [µg]0
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]0
Vitamin A, IU [IU]0
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]14.3
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.9
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]12.95
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]27.58
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]54.68
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Benefits & Uses of Corn Oil

People primarily use corn oil as cooking oil, due to its semi-neutral flavour and cost, in comparison to other vegetable oils. However, some people use organic corn oil in medicinal or topical applications, and even as a massage oil. The efficacy of this oil for health depends on the source and processing method of oil. Unrefined, organic oil delivers some benefits, as explained below.

Balances Cholesterol Levels

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both needed by the body, as they can help to control inflammation and excess cholesterol. However, these fats aren’t balanced in most forms of corn oil, particularly in refined varieties. Therefore, this oil can reduce blood pressure and balance cholesterol in very limited quantities, so use the oil sparingly when cooking. 

Reduces Inflammation

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are known to work against inflammation when consumed in moderation in the body. This can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, as well as headaches, gastrointestinal problems and even inflammatory conditions of the skin. 

Improves Vision Health

There are other ingredients besides fats in corn oil, such as flavonoids and antioxidants, such as lutein, which can reduce free radical activity in the body. Specifically, lutein is able to protect vision health and prevent the development of cataracts. 

Prevents Chronic Diseases

Monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, flavonoids, and vitamin E all have antioxidant properties, which can help reduce oxidative stress throughout the body. When used in moderation, this oil can help to prevent chronic disease, while also helping to make the skin look and feel younger.

Reduces Allergies

Some of the compounds in corn oil have been known to reduce allergic reactivity in the body, helping to keep symptoms of asthma and rhinitis at bay. Although corn oil is rarely used as a topical oil, it can help allergic reactions on the skin when applied directly.

Skin Care

Whether you use corn oil directly on your skin or consume small amounts of it, the antioxidants and tocopherols in the oil will help prevent skin infections and help to relieve irritation, blemishes, eczema, and psoriasis. It can even help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other age spots. However, remember that this oil is very high in fat, and should always be consumed in moderation, no matter how good it makes your skin look!

Rich In Phytosterols

There is a huge reduction in cholesterol absorption due to the presence of Phytosterols, the cholesterol-lowering activity agent.

Corn Oil Nutrition Facts

Although there is some debate about the health effects of corn oil, the nutritional facts of this oil are quite clear, and when used in responsible amounts, this oil can provide certain key nutrients to the body. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats can be found in high levels in unrefined corn oil. This includes linoleic and oleic acids, although when it comes to the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in corn oil, the ratio is far from ideal. There are nearly 50 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, whereas the recommended ratio is 1:1. You can also benefit from the high levels of vitamin E in this oil, as well as limited levels of vitamin A, xanthins and trace amounts of other antioxidant compounds.

Side Effects of Corn Oil

There are numerous side effects of corn oil, including potential toxicity, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stomach irritation, and weight gain. Even when used in small amounts, people seeking a healthy vegetable oil are typically directed away from corn oil. If you are going to use this oil, however, be sure to use organic and unrefined corn oil, which will have the highest level of potentially beneficial compounds.

Heart Health

Although there are some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in corn oil, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is wildly skewed, and this oil remains very high in fat. A single tablespoon contains more than 20% of your daily fat allowance. It can cause cholesterol problems for some who use an excessive amount, particular those who are already dealing with cardiovascular issues. 

Cancer

Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 are incredibly important and must be included in one’s diet as the body can’t produce them on its own. Technically, they need to be consumed in a 1:1 ratio. However, over the past couple of years, the ratio has drastically shifted in the Western diet, bringing it to nearly 20:1, according to a research report published by The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, USA. Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, Nieminen LR (et al.), from the Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA have concluded that too much omega 6 in comparison to Omega 3 can give rise to chronic inflammations, which can further cause different kinds of cancers.

Toxicity

Due to the high level of herbicide and pesticide use in agricultural practices, and the various countries where corn oil can be produced, there is a chance of toxicity in this oil. This can manifest in trouble with your liver and kidneys. As mentioned before, it is important to know exactly where your corn oil comes from.

Obesity

Corn oil may have some health benefits, but it is also very high in calories (more than 120 per tablespoon, compared to 40 per tablespoon of olive oil). As a result, excessive use of this oil can significantly boost your daily caloric intake, and you may not even realize it, easily compromising your weight loss goals.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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