A Guide to Cottonseed Oil and its Health Benefits

Mehak Shah

June 30, 2022

Many people suffer from cholesterol problems, leading to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. People are trying to adopt different exercise routines with a healthy balanced diet to reduce cholesterol levels. Everyone is leaning toward plant sources for the consumption of healthy fats and oil because of their zero cholesterol levels in them. The health industry is exploring different vegetable oil options which are cost-effective with high nutrition profiles. Cottonseed oil is vegetable oil with high nutritional value and many benefits. Cottonseed oil has gained popularity because of its long shelf life and oxidative stability at higher temperatures, unlike other vegetable oils. 

The often-ignored fact is that cottonseed oil plays a significant role as animal feed. In addition, as a protein-rich feed, cottonseed derivative is a common source of protein for ruminants. Therefore, most of its reported benefits and side effects have something to do with animals or vertebrae.

Nutritional Value of Cottonseed Oil

According to USDA, 100 grams of cottonseed oil contains the following nutrients.

  • Calories: 884 kcal
  • Total lipid content: 100 g
  • Vitamin E: 35.3 mg
  • Vitamin K: 24.7 µg
  • Saturated fatty acids: 25.9 g
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids: 17.8 g
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 51.9 g

Cottonseed oil gets extracted from the kernel of cottonseed. Cottonseed has a 2:1 ratio of polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Therefore, it generally contains 65-70% unsaturated fatty acids (18-24% MUFA, i.e., oleic acid, and 42-52% PUFA, i.e., linoleic acid) and 26-35% saturated fatty acids such as palmitic and stearic acid.

Cottonseed oil is free from cholesterol because it comes from a plant source. Cottonseed oil is naturally hydrogenated because it has palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids. In addition, the fatty acids in the oil change with the hydrogenation process. For example, hydrogenation of cottonseed oil to an iodine value of 80 changes the fat levels, i.e., 50% of MUFA, 21% PUFA, and 29% SFA.

Cottonseed oil contains tocopherols which are potent antioxidants. In addition, it increases the oil’s shelf life by inhibiting rancidity. Due to high antioxidants, cottonseed oil is stable while cooking at high temperatures, retains freshness, and promotes a longer shelf life. 

Health Benefits of Cottonseed Oil

Anti-Cancer Properties

Cottonseed oil contains unsaturated fatty acids (Linoleic acid) and saturated fatty acids (Oleic acid) that are known to prevent cancer cell growth. Studies suggest that gossypol in cottonseed oil retains selective toxicity towards cancerous cells. Gossypol-enriched cottonseed oil possesses intense anti-cancer activity against different types of cancer, such as breast cancer. 

Obesity is one of the major causes of breast cancer. The gossypol helps reduce weight by reducing the appetite, which then decreases the instances of breast cancer. Furthermore, gossypol inhibits pre-obesity proliferation, significantly decreasing adipogenesis. In addition, it inhibited GPDH activity, triglyceride levels, leptin, and down-regulating adipogenesis regulating factors.

Studies indicate that gossypol lowers the risk of prostate cancer by reducing prostate tissue growth and reducing prostate enlargement. It shows anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects against cancer cells. In addition, the gossypol enantiomer is a potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. The results suggested that gossypol might have chemotherapeutic benefits for prostate cancer patients.

Wound Healing Properties

Cottonseed oil is a rich source of linoleic acid and tocopherols that help in rapid wound healing. Studies show that linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, promotes wound healing by modulating cellular response. It increases the migration and functions of inflammatory and endothelial cells on the wound sites for rapid recovery. It induces angiogenesis in the wound area, stimulating new blood vessel formation. Linoleic acid helps in reducing inflammation, preventing the worsening of the wound. It enables the release of proinflammatory mediators in the initial inflammation phase to avoid chronic inflammation around the wound.

An animal study assesses the effect of oleic and linoleic acids on the inflammatory phase of wound healing. It shows that both fatty acids increased the wound healing tissue mass and released a proinflammatory response to alleviate the inflammatory response. Therefore, the proinflammatory effect of oleic and linoleic acid might speed up the wound healing process. 

You can apply cottonseed oil to wounds by mixing it with coconut oil for an efficient healing process. Using cottonseed oil minimises or eradicates the scarring and stimulates the growth of new cells to prevent infection. 

Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Cottonseed oil contains monounsaturated fats, which reduce the levels of blood cholesterol. It helps reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases such as heart stroke and atherosclerosis. It is known as ‘heart oil’ because of its high concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids. There was research on 38 healthy adults aged 18-40 who were administered a cottonseed oil-rich diet, i.e., about 95 g of cottonseed oil daily for a week. The results were in favour as there was a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL levels after one week. 

Another study shows the results on animals where corn oil got replaced with cottonseed oil for four weeks. It offers a notable reduction in total cholesterol levels and HDL cholesterol levels. Although it reduces cholesterol levels, it is certainly not related to its fatty acid composition. Instead, it is from the components present in the nonsaponifiable portion of cottonseed oil. The nonsaponifiable amount of alpha-tocopherol and beta-sitosterol help in lowering blood lipid levels.

It is to note that other changes can reduce high cholesterol levels like body mass index, diet composition, and lifestyle interventions. 

Cottonseeds Oil for Hair Growth

Cottonseed oil contains polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic acid, which increases hair growth. It helps to strengthen the hair and reduces hair loss. It moisturises the hair and protects them against environmental stressors such as sun damage and styling. Vitamin E in cottonseed oil fights against free radicals to delay the premature greying of hair and improves the growth rate. 

Improves Skin Health

Cottonseed oil contains vitamin E isoform alpha-tocopherol, a potent fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is beneficial for treating skin ulcers, psoriasis, and various skin conditions. The antioxidant properties fight against the free radicals to prevent oxidative damage. It helps to delay the progression of ageing skin, such as sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles. 

Cotton seeds oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, especially linoleic acid, which helps treat dry skin conditions. It strengthens the skin’s barrier by effectively coating it so it won’t get irritated. This oil contains anti-inflammatory properties which help in repairing damaged skin cells. It increases the skin’s permeability, acts as a moisturiser, and treats dry skin conditions. Refined cottonseed oil is a home remedy for skin conditions such as irritated skin, redness, and dry skin.

Potential Side Effects of Cottonseed Oil

Cottonseed oil contains gossypol, a phenolic compound often found in cotton stems, leaves, seeds, and flower buds. Gossypol provides an undesirable colour and reacts with protein to reduce the nutritional value of cottonseed products. It binds with amino or free carboxy groups of cottonseed protein and reduces the bioavailability of the essential amino acid, lysine. While it protects against pests in cotton plants, it can cause toxic effects on humans. High consumption of cottonseed oil can also cause acute poisoning. 

Allergic Reactions

Cottonseed oil can cause allergic reactions. If used topically, it can cause rashes on the body. Severe side effects can be seen with oral consumption, such as facial swelling, breathing difficulty, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and severe asthma. In addition, people who are allergic to seeds like canola may have an allergic reaction to cottonseed oil. In these cases, you must avoid food cooked in cottonseed oil.

May Cause Damage in the Reproductive System

Gossypol in cottonseed oil inhibits spermatogenesis and decreases sperm count, sperm motility, and viability in males. It acts as a male contraceptive agent because of hypokalemia (low potassium level). There is about a 10% chance that males might not recover from infertility caused by gossypol. 

Studies have shown that the effects of gossypol in males are time- and dose-dependent. High doses of gossypol through cottonseed products cause infertility in males by decreasing spermatogenesis. 

Liver Damage

Gossypol within cottonseed oil is known to possess hepatotoxic properties. It can cause ascites and hepatocyte degeneration, i.e., degeneration of liver cells. It results in liver damage, leading to various liver disorders and other metabolic disorders such as gastrointestinal intestinal disorders. 

Toxicity in Monogastric Animals

Studies found gossypol toxic to several animals such as broilers, chicks, pigs, dogs, sheep, and goats. Monogastric animals are more susceptible to gossypol poisoning than ruminants. Ruminants, animals with a four-chambered stomach, show resistance against gossypol toxicity. Young ruminants are more sensitive to gossypol than adult ruminants. 


Studies show that gossypol is a highly reactive phenolic compound that binds with minerals or amino acids. Gossypol binds with iron and forms a gossypol-iron complex that inhibits iron absorption, resulting in anaemia. Low haemoglobin levels and PCV values occur due to gossypol-iron binding. Low iron concentrations affect the erythropoiesis process and hence increase erythrocyte fragility. There was a notable decrease in the number of RBCs and the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. 

Affects Cardiac Fibres

Studies show that gossypol decreases the contraction force of the heart and reduces the contraction of cardiac fibres. It degenerates the heart fibres, making it difficult to perform normal functioning, i.e., heart muscles cannot pump blood efficiently. It may lead to congestive heart failure and other heart disorders like myocardial infarction and atherosclerosis.

Ways to Use Cottonseed Oil

  • Cottonseed oil has a high smoke point. Therefore, it can withstand cooking at high temperatures. In addition, it is considered desirable for stir-frying and other frying methods of cooking. Cottonseed oil has a high smoke point because of high levels of tocopherols, which keep it stable and rancidity free. Therefore, refined cottonseed oil is suitable for cooking.
  • Cottonseed oil is usually bland in taste but is an excellent flavour carrier. Instead of masking the flavour, it enhances the natural taste and flavour of the foods. For example, you can use it in salad dressings because of its neutral flavour profile.
  • It can be used to make marinades, icings, and whipped topping. It helps to promote desired consistency, texture, and a smooth and creamy appearance.
  • It goes along well with the delicate flavours of seafood and intensely flavoured foods like hot and spicy dishes. Moreover, since cottonseed oil enhances the natural flavour of foods, you can use it in various cuisines such as Chinese.
  • You can use emulsified cottonseed oil in intravenous nutrition for patients who cannot eat heavily but require a high-calorie diet. 
  • It is also present in laundry detergents, insecticides, and cosmetics.

Cottonseed Oil: Storage Tips

  • Store the cottonseed oil in a tightly sealed container, preferably a glass container. Store it in a cool and dark place. 
  • Avoid using copper near oils or fats. Copper can enhance the process of deterioration of the oil. It affects the oil’s shelf life and generally results in oxidation, causing rancidity.
  • Keep the cottonseed oil away from sunlight because UV rays can degrade the triglycerides and catalyse the double bonds in unsaturated fatty acids. It results in compromised shelf life and undesirable off-flavour. 
  • While cooking, do not let the oil exceed 360 degrees Fahrenheit while frying. Though, the smoke point of cottonseed oil is 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Always filter the oil after frying to remove the particulate matter. They can darken the oil, add a bitter flavour to foods, and reduce their texture and taste. 


There are multiple choices of oils, and cottonseed oil is one of them. It is a popular vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of various cotton plant species. Cottonseed oil has a rich nutritional profile that contains PUFA, MUFA, SFA, and tocopherols. Therefore, it is considered a good vegetable oil to manage cholesterol levels. In addition, the healthy fats and tocopherols in the oil exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and cancer-preventive properties. Therefore, it is generally safe to consume. However, this oil can also cause acute toxicity or allergic reactions because of gossypol, a toxin in cottonseed oil. Therefore, it is best to avoid using the oil to prevent severe allergic reactions if one is allergic to it. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is cottonseed oil good for you?

A. Cottonseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant. It is a vegetable oil because it comes from a plant source. They don’t freeze in low-temperature conditions because of their low saturated fat content. This vegetable oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fats. It contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that reduces inflammation, beneficial in heart conditions, enhances cognitive function, and boosts the immune system. It makes it a healthy choice for cooking.

Q. Is cottonseed oil poisonous?

A. Cottonseed oil is poisonous when taken in high doses. Cottonseed oil contains a compound named gossypol which might cause gossypol poisoning. It can cause weakness, weight gain, respiratory diseases, and apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm). In addition, it disturbs the immune system and causes reproductive issues. 

Q. Which oil is better: sunflower or cottonseed?

A. Cottonseed oil contains about 25% saturated fat, while sunflower oil contains about 11% saturated fat. The primary fatty acid in cottonseed oil is linoleic acid or omega-6 fatty acid. There are 68% omega-6 or linoleic fatty acids in sunflower oil and 21% oleic or omega-9 fatty acids. Cottonseed oil doesn’t break down rapidly like soybean or sunflower seed oil while frying, which makes cottonseed oil a better choice in the food and snack industry. 

Q. What does cottonseed oil smell like?

A. Cottonseed oil has a mild odour with a nut-like taste. The colour of oil generally depends upon the amount of refining. It usually has a light golden-yellow hue. However, it can quickly become rancid if not properly stored, causing an unpleasant odour. It has a characteristic smell when heated but has no taste. 

Q. What animals can eat cottonseed?

A. Cottonseed is an excellent cattle feed due to its high amount of fibre, protein, and energy. However, cottonseed can be toxic for monogastric animals because of gossypol presence. Ruminants such as cattle, sheep, goats, and deer show resistance to gossypol toxin. Ruminants are animals that generally have four-chambered stomachs. 

Q. Is cottonseed oil good for deep frying?

A. Cottonseed oil is generally considered suitable for the food and snack industry. This oil is high in unsaturated fat with high omega-6 fatty acids. It has a high smoking point which makes it ideal for deep frying because it is stable at high temperatures. It also enhances the flavour of food instead of masking its taste.

Q. Can I fry chicken in cottonseed oil?

A. Yes, you can use cottonseed oil to fry chicken. However, cooking chicken or meat in this oil is not the healthiest choice. It is because of the high saturated fat content present in cottonseed oil.

About the Author

Mehak holds masters in foods and nutrition from Amity university, Noida. She has a keen interest in public health and nutrition and has been in charge of various projects with milestone NGO. She has worked with people over the globe to bring out the changes in their lives and has always been working towards lifestyle modifications via good dietary practices. According to her a healthy lifestyle is not about the destination but all about the journey.

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