Frying Your Brain with Soybean Oil

Who ya going to believe these days?  Every medical association and every internet want-to-be is telling you how to cook your food.  Coconut oil, avocado oil, soybean oil, hemp oil, and on and on.  Then you listen to some of my upcoming videos about discerning the results of medical studies to know if the results should matter to you or not.  How can anyone sort through the noise?

Discernment always requires applying good rules of logic and often requires narrowing down the question to a manageable size.  In this case, lets consider soybean oil and this one study showing its affects on mice brains.

First, the primary findings report that the mice fed soybean oil (whether modified to have low or normal levels of linoleic acid) demonstrated changes in gene expression and the hormone oxytocin.  The altered gene expression concerned inflammation, insulin, and neuroendocrine pathways. The control group used for comparison were fed coconut oil and did not show these changes.

Second, does this apply to humans?  Well, just because mice showed these changes does not guarantee that the same occurs in humans.  However, we do research in animals not just because it is easier and safer than doing it in humans, but because mammals like mice have close enough genetics and metabolic pathways.  Therefore we can extrapolate study results to humans most of the time.  Then we should consider whether similar genes and metabolic pathways contribute to disease in humans.  This is a definite “yes”.  From there, we would need to know if the amounts of soybean oils fed to the mice are comparable to a human’s diet.  I don’t know the answer to that question in this case.

Third, can we do anything about it?  If we are trapped and cannot change something, then it is a pointless endeavor.  In this case, we could make conscious decisions to use a different oil.  So, yes, if this study is true for humans, we can lower harmful effects of soybean oil by not eating it.

What does it not say?  It does not address other soy products like soy sauce, soymilk, tofu, or others.  This focuses only on soybean oil so don’t throw out all soy unless you have another reason to do so like an allergy.

Where do we go from here?  For now, I would recommend limiting or avoiding soybean oil for cooking.  I would then wait for other research into which specific component of soybean oil is the primary culprit.  I would also add two more things.  If you have time, look around at other research to see if any other studies point towards problems with soybean oil (a few interesting papers are listed below).  If not, at least file this link away for later if you run across more research so you can compare.

Until more information is available, this Functional MD will continue guiding his patients towards a low inflammatory diet as one part of living a healthier more abundant life.


Original Article:

Poonamjot Deol, Elena Kozlova, Matthew Valdez, Catherine Ho, Ei-Wen Yang, Holly Richardson, Gwendolyn Gonzalez, Edward Truong, Jack Reid, Joseph Valdez, Jonathan R Deans, Jose Martinez-Lomeli, Jane R Evans, Tao Jiang, Frances M Sladek, Margarita C Curras-Collazo. Dysregulation of Hypothalamic Gene Expression and the Oxytocinergic System by Soybean Oil Diets in Male Mice. Endocrinology, 2020; DOI: 10.1210/endocr/bqz044

Thanks to Science Daily:

University of California – Riverside. “America’s most widely consumed oil causes genetic changes in the brain: Soybean oil linked to metabolic and neurological changes in mice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2020. <>.


Other interesting articles:

Connecting inflammation in hypothalamus with nutritional diseases:

Cai D, Liu T.  Hypothalamic Inflammation: a double-edged sword to nutritional disease. Ann. N. Y. Acad Sci. 2011;1243:E1-38.

Soybean oil connections:

Cost CA, Carlos AS, dos Santos Ade S, Monteiro AM, Moura EG, Nascimento-Saba CC.  Abdominal adiposity, insulin and bone quality in young male rats fed a high-fat diet containing soybean or canola oil.  Clinics 2011;66(10):1811-1816

Deol P Evans JR, Dhahbi J, Chellappa K, Han DS, Spindler S, Sladek FM.  Soybean oil is more obesogenic and diabetogenic than coconut oil and frustose in mouse:  potential role for the liver PLoS One 2015; 10(7).e0132672.


Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.

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