Corn oil (maize oil) is oil extracted from the germ of corn (maize). Its main use is in cooking, where its high smoke point makes refined corn oil a valuable frying oil. It is also a key ingredient in some margarines. Corn oil is generally less expensive than most other types of vegetable oils. One bushel of corn contains 1.55 pounds of corn oil. Corn agronomists have developed high-oil varieties; however, these varieties tend to show lower field yields, so they are not universally accepted by growers.
Corn oil is also a feedstock used for biodiesel. Other industrial uses for corn oil include soap, salve, paint, rustproofing for metal surfaces, inks, textiles, nitroglycerin, and insecticides. It is sometimes used as a carrier for drug molecules in pharmaceutical preparations.
Corn oil is an effective component in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Corn oil offers high levels of polyunsaturated instead of saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats lower blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats neither lower nor raise blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats are approximately twice as powerful in raising cholesterol levels as polyunsaturated fats are in lowering them. Corn oil contains about 60 percent polyunsaturated, 25 to 30 percent monounsaturated, and 10 to 15 percent saturated fats.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has acknowledged the unsaturated fat benefits of corn oil in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Research has shown that phytosterols play an important role in reducing blood cholesterol by inhibiting its absorption from the intestines. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn oil contains 968 milligrams of phytosterols per 100 grams of oil. It has one of the highest phytosterol levels of the refined vegetable oils. Only rice-bran oil has a higher phytosterol content at 1,190 mg/100 grams. Corn oil is the only product that contains a natural mixture of free phytosterol, phytosterol esters, and phytostanol esters. Blood Pressure
Numerous human studies show that diets enriched in polyunsaturated fatty acids can significantly lower elevated blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. Corn oil was used in many of these studies. Corn oil diets have shown blood pressure lowering of about 12 percent in men and five percent in women who had elevated blood pressure (mild hypertension). No significant effect of polyunsaturates has been noted in persons with normal blood pressure. Essential Fatty Acids
Corn oil is a rich source of linoleic acid, which is one of two essential acids necessary for growth and good skin and hair quality. Linoleic acid is labeled “essential” because it cannot be synthesized by the body and must be supplied in the diet. Tocopherols
Corn oil is also recognized as an excellent source of tocopherols. Tocopherols function as antioxidants and provide a good source of Vitamin E. The antioxidant activity of tocopherols is important in health terms, but also in terms of quality of the product because it helps retard development of rancidity.
The four major tocopherols found in corn oil are alpha-tocopherol, beta-tocopherol, gammatocopherol, and delta-tocopherol. In commercially available corn oil, gamma-tocopherol is most abundant, followed by alpha-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol. The tocopherol that exhibits the greatest antioxidant effect is delta-tocopherol and alpha-tocopherol has the highest Vitamin E activity.
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