Rice Bran Oil: One Big Health Disadvantage Outweighs All Its Advantages
Rice bran oil has been touted by some health experts as the solution to the ever increasing cases of metabolic syndrome. Although this unique edible oil has many nutritional benefits, including being a worthy source of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and antioxidant nutrients, it has one major disadvantage which may outweigh all of the above benefits.
The Good News
Rice bran oil (also known as rice bran extract) is the oil extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice. It is notable for its high smoke point which ranges between 415 to 490 degrees F depending on the testing method. Its mild flavor makes it suitable for high-temperature cooking methods such as stir frying and deep frying. It is popular as a cooking oil in several Asian countries, including Japan, India and China.
In India, it is now being recognized as their version of olive oil. Experts like Dr. Meena Mehta; Vice President of the Indian Dietetic Association, Mumbai Chapter highlighted the role of Rice Bran Oil in reducing cholesterol and insulin.
Dr. Mehta Says that the Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) ratios as well as Saturated Fatty Acid (SUFA) are important ratios to recognize.
"It is not just the MUFA: PUFA ratio that is important but the ratio of SFA: MUFA: PUFA that is important. And according to the latest recommendations by National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) the ideal fatty acid composition is 27-33% : 33-40% : 27-33%. And the fatty acid composition of Rice bran oil comes closest to these recommendations with the percentages at 24: 42: 34." The SFA: MUFA: PUFA ratios of various oils were discussed and it concluded with the fact that Rice Bran Oil indeed has the most ideal fat composition, better frying stability and offers unique health benefits due to phytosterols present in it.
Tocotrienols (TRF) have high antioxidant properties and are becoming more noteworthy in scientific research. TRF is derived from barley, oats, palm and rice bran.The best form of TRF comes from rice bran oil, which is contained in the outer grain hull of rice. Its properties inhibit the activity of HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in cholesterol biosynthesis.
Long-term use of tocotrienols might reduce overall cancer risk, according to published research last year in the European Journal of Cancer. These natural antioxidants help fight free radicals, a major cause of uncontrolled cancer growth.
Oryzanol has been found to be a powerful antioxidant only found in rice bran oil. It is more active than Vitamin E in fighting free radicals. Oryzanol is effective in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, reducing liver cholesterol synthesis and treating menopausal disorders.
Phytosterols are nutrients with many health benefits and are more abundant in Rice Bran Oil than any other oil. Scientific research suggest that Phytosterols reduce cholesterol, provide anti-inflammatory effects, inhibit the growth of cancer cells, improve the immune system and have other health benefits. There are 27 different phytosterols in Rice Bran Oil.
If you do purchase rice bran oil, you will find it is quite affordable, but perhaps there is reason for that, namely to increase its availability to all segments of society. Based on my experience, that usually sets off a red flag.
The Very Bad News
One MAJOR problem with this oil is its ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. Rice bran oil contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) – and virtually no omega-3 (linolenic acid). This fact alone is enough to strike this oil out of your diet permanently unless you are supplementing with omega-3.
The ideal ratio between these two fatty acids is 1:1 and the nutritional habits of most people in developed nations has this ratio soaring more than 15:1 (Omega 6: Omega 3). So unless you are consuming reasonable amounts of Omega 3 in your diet, you should stay away from this oil.
Although rice bran oil has been tested to reduce cholesterol levels, it is important to recognize its high omega-6 content, which can be detrimental to health if used excessively. A high consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are also found in most types of vegetable oils, may increase the likelihood of both breast cancer and prostate cancer. Other analyses suggested an inverse association between total polyunsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer risk.
Omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same metabolic enzymes. The dietary imbalance that exists in rice bran oil can create all sorts of problems to body processes, including a tendency towards inflammation. This imbalance has been implicated in higher rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and skin disorders. It is essentially prone to the same negative health effects as sunflower, safflower, canola and corn oils.
Rice bran oil may also have the potential to be genetically modified in the future, so it's important to ensure only organic sources of this oil are used. Rice bran itself is also potentially high in arsenic so this is another level of concern which requires more research.
Also, the majority of rice bran oil on the market is NOT cold pressed and some may be chemically extracted using solvents, in particular petroleum-derived hexane and high heat. So buyer beware of your source.
Based on the bad news, my recommendation is to use this oil very sparingly (if at all). In my opinion, the disadvantages far outweigh the health benefits, many of which appear to be from studies which were heavily biased, especially in the last few years due to mass marketing campaigns to distribute this oil on a global scale.
The best edible oil of choice is and will always be coconut oil. For salads, stick to unrefined, cold-pressed, high quality virgin olive oil and as always research your sources.
John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.