Sorry Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Corn Oil Is Better For Lowering Cholesterol
    By News Staff | December 6th 2013 11:20 AM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    In recent times, olive oil became one of the lowest health fads. Its popularity grew to such an extent that it became difficult to know if you were even buying olive oil, much less the extra virgin kind it might say on the label.

    You may have been better off with the vegetable oil that might have been in it, as it turns out.  Corn oil significantly reduces cholesterol with more favorable changes in total cholesterol (TC) and LDL-C than extra virgin olive oil, according to a new paper presented today at the American Society for Nutrition's Advances&Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference.

    Among the 54 healthy men and women in the feeding study, consumption of foods made with corn oil resulted in significantly lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol than the same foods made with extra virgin olive oil.

    Corn oil lowered LDL cholesterol by 10.9 percent compared to extra virgin olive oil's 3.5 percent reduction and total cholesterol decreased by 8.2 percent with corn oil compared to 1.8 percent for extra virgin olive oil.2 Study participants received four tablespoons of corn oil or extra virgin olive oil in the foods provided every day, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. All foods were provided to the study participants as part of a weight maintenance diet.

    The randomized, double-blind, controlled crossover clinical trial assessed the effects of dietary oils on fasting lipoprotein lipids. The study compared the effects of corn and extra virgin olive oil on LDL cholesterol (primary outcome variable), total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), Non-HDL cholesterol, Triglycerides and the total to HDL cholesterol ratio. Study participants had fasting LDL cholesterol ≥130 mg/dL and <200 mg/dL. Fasting blood samples, along with other clinical measurements, were taken from all participants during visits to the clinical study center before and after each treatment phase of the study.

    "The study results suggest corn oil has significantly greater effects on blood cholesterol levels than extra virgin olive oil, due, in part, to the natural cholesterol-blocking ability of plant sterols," said lead researcher Dr. Kevin C Maki, PhD, of Biofortis, the clinical research arm of Mérieux NutriSciences. "These findings add to those from prior research supporting corn oil's positive heart health benefits." 

    Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. Existing research supports the notion diets containing at least 5-10 percent of calories from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from vegetable oils, are associated with lower risk for heart disease. 

    Corn oil has a unique combination of healthy fatty acids and plant sterols, which research suggests help lower cholesterol. Corn oil has four times more plant sterols than olive oil and 40 percent more than canola oil. Based on analysis of corn oil and 2013 USDA comparison of other cooking oils, corn oil has a plant sterols content of 135.6 mg/serving vs. 30.0 mg/serving for olive oil. Plant sterols are plant-based substances naturally present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, legumes and vegetable oils, such as corn oil. To the extent that plant sterols play a part in reducing blood cholesterol levels, they could have an important role in a heart healthy diet. 


    1. Maki KC, Lawless AL, Kelley KM, Kaden VN, Dicklin MR. Benefits of corn oil compared to extra-virgin olive oil consumption on the plasma lipid profile in men and women with elevated cholesterol: results from a controlled feeding trial. Poster session presented at: American Society for Nutrition's Advances&Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference; 2013 Dec 5-7; Washington, D.C. 

    2. Baseline mean (standard error) lipid values in mg/dL were: LDL-C 153.3 (3.5), total-C 225.7 (3.9), non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-C 178.3 (3.7), HDL-C 47.4 (1.7), total-C/HDL-C 5.0 (0.2), and triglycerides 124.8 (7.2). 

    3. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, Bravata DM, Dai S, Ford ES, Fox CS, Franco S, Fullerton HJ, Gillespie C, Hailpern SM, Heit JA, Howard VJ, Huffman MD, Kissela BM, Kittner SJ, Lackland DT, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth LD, Magid D, Marcus GM, Marelli A, Matchar DB, McGuire DK, Mohler ER, Moy CS, Mussolino ME, Nichol G, Paynter NP, Schreiner PJ, Sorlie PD, Stein J, Turan TN, Virani SS, Wong ND, Woo D, Turner MB; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013; 127:e6-e245.

    4. Howell TJ, MacDougall DE, Jones PJH. Phytosterols partially explain differences in cholesterol metabolism caused by corn or olive oil feeding. J Lipid Res. 1998 Apr;39(4):892-900. 

    5. Wagner K-H, Tomasch R, Elmadfa I. Impact of diets containing corn oil or olive/sunflower oil mixture on the human plasma and lipoprotein lipid metabolism. Eur J Nutr. 2001 Aug;40(4):161-7. 

    6. Harris W, Mozaffarian D, Rimm E, Kris-Etherton P. Rudel LL, Appel LJ, Engler MM, Engler MB , Sacks F. Omega-6 fatty acids and risk for cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association Nutrition Subcommittee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; and Council on Epidemiology and Prevention. Circulation. 2009;119:902-907.

    7. Based on analysis of corn oil and 2013 USDA comparison of other cooking oils: Corn Oil has plant sterols content of 135.6 mg/serving vs. 30.0 mg/serving for Olive Oil, 40.8 mg/serving for Vegetable Oil, and 93.9 mg/serving for Canola Oil.


    "Corn oil has a unique combination of healthy fatty acids and plant sterols ..."

    Yeah, it lowers your cholesterol while ravaging your body.

    Really, I'd like to see the provenance of the funding of this beaut.

    Corn oil is particularly rich in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, something Westerners consume perhaps 40 times as much as they should, thanks to the ubiquity of concentrated grain oils in processed foods.

    Canola oil is the least offensive on this score, but corn oil should be avoided like the plague.

    You don't want to get into 'who funded this?' for a few reasons. First, 'follow the money' is rarely accurate and second, it assumes research results are for sale to whoever writes the checks. That means all science done during the Obama administration is invalid to Republicans and 8 years of Bush science was invalid to Democrats. Corporations have done far more practical and basic science than government-controlled (which includes academic) science ever has, which would not be the case if corporations were producing studies based on whoever cut the checks.
    You'll get no argument from me over the worse-than-uselessness of government hand-holding/teat-sucking.

    Witness the FDA promotion of vegetable oils as "healthy."

    Thor Russell
    All the same, results like this are cause for concern:
    "We can begin with some recent work: in 2010, three researchers from Harvard and Toronto found all the trials looking at five major classes of drug—antidepressants, ulcer drugs and so on—then measured two key features: were they positive, and were they funded by industry? They found over five hundred trials in total: 85 per cent of the industry-funded studies were positive, but only 50 per cent of the government funded trials were. That’s a very significant difference."

    Thor Russell
    Corn oil is extremely high in Omega 6 Fatty Acids which are causative in inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and stroke.

    Corn oil INCREASES the risk of heart attacks.

    "Corn and safflower oil...are not associated with beneficial effects on heart health according to recent evidence....[R]ates of death from all causes of cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease significantly increased...."


    Saying that press release is accurate because you like what it says but this one is not because you don't like what it says makes no sense.
    1. It appears to me that a larger study by resources whose provenance is uncontested as to credibility.
    2. Notwithstanding this research, there appear to be many other studies which contra-indicate the seemingly partial benefits of this one.
    3.Is there any research which takes account of the effect on Omega-6 (and other harmful fatty acids) in a more complete fashion when comparing EV Olive Oil and Vegetable Oil(s).? If not, why not? Seems to make sense in view of the controversy.

    No single study will ever convince me that the conclusions offered are correct.

    What this study does is convince me of is that a larger study of corn oil versus extra virgin olive oil would be worthwhile. Since an excess of omega six polyunsaturated fatty acids tends to provoke inflammation, I would hope that the study would also measure C-reactive protein, and perhaps a few other cytokines such as TNF-alpha, and include a very non-specific measure of inflammation such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate. These are all inexpensive readily available clinical laboratory tests.

    The assumption being that lowering cholesterol (LDL) translates into fewer cardiac events and lower mortality. It doesn't. The new statin guidelines that came out recently (which are a joke) admit as much when they caution that treating to "numbers" hasn't been a good predictor of lowering the incidence of heart attacks. This study does precisely that, treating to lipid numbers instead of looking at health outcomes.

    "Acknowledgement of Funding Source(s): ACH Food Companies, Inc. and PepsiCo, Inc." from

    I note it's a poster from a meeting, not peer reviewed published study.

    The "study" was funded by ACH Foods and Pepsi. AHC is Mazola corn oil's parent company and Pepsi, which has been known to sell a corn chip now and then. Very nice "science" they're doing.

    I should hope so. There is no reason taxpayers should be funding this sort of thing.

    Oh wait, you are alleging that the researchers are unethical liars because they are not government-controlled - that they wrote a conclusion first and then created date to match it, because science is about results the funding agency likes. That is why all Republicans can't trust any science funded during the Obama administration.

    Never mind. Keep your tinfoil hat firmly in place.
    Wow. Right to the name calling. Tinfoil hat. That's funny. I see your Right Wing nuts are pretty tightly screwed in...

    Is it your contention that there is no such a thing as a conflict of interest? Never mind. Your mind is made up. I remember the good old days of Frank Resnick of Philip Morris touting the scientific proof that tobacco wasn't bad for you. Research funded by PM and Lorillard and the others. And ol' Frank was a scientist! Thank God it wasn't paid for by the taxpayers.

    Thor Russell
    Where are the links to the scientific papers you are referring to? Did Frank refer to actual published science or just make stuff up?
    Thor Russell
    I should hope it is not a 'right wing' trait to assume that people are ethical unless it is proven otherwise. I do know that on the crackpot fringes of political weirdness, both sides insist scientists are for sale - you have simply demonstrated which crackpot fringe you are on.

    What you need to do is show evidence they are lying or in any way unethical. You don't do that, you dive right into conspiracy fairy tales. Yes, that is tinfoil hat stuff. If you don't like the label, don't be the label.