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Is Corn Oil unhealthy to use in your cooking ?


"It is a major error to put corn oil among the healthy macrobiotic oils to consume regularly. Corn oil is too high in polyunsaturates to be healthy and when it is heated, it becomes toxic."

Steven Acuff

travels throughout the world, lecturing and counseling.

Read the comments from:

Rosemary Triall
- Robert N. Carr, Jr. - Gale Jack
Tom Monte - Gordon Alan Saxe, MD, PhD - Martin Halsey
Denny Waxman - Carl Ferre - Lawrence H. Kushi, Sc.D.
Meredith McCarty - Roberto Marr - Susan Kriegerki

Also see Nutrition of fats
by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.




I very much agree with Steve Acuff's point. In my view, the encouragement of the use of corn oil that we often see in the macrobiotic literature is unwise. We may theorize, based on yin-yang philosophy, that corn oil is healthy, but the scientific literature tends to suggest otherwise.

Corn oil is high in polyunsaturated fat and tends to undergo oxidation more readily than some other oils (e.g., olive). Oxidized fats generate free radical damage to cells, a process that is implicated in various degenerative diseases, especially certain cancers. For example, corn oil is used experimentally to promote tumor growth in some laboratory models of breast, colon, and other cancers.

Corn oil may also impair immune function. I typically recommend to my patients that they try and limit or avoid corn oil and use olive or other monounsaturated or essential fats instead.

I also recommend that they refrigerate and light-protect all oils, as most commercial oils undergo oxidation more rapidly at room temperature and with exposure to light.

Gordon Alan Saxe, MD, PhD




I do agree with Steven. Corn oil is not considered one of the healthier oils, as are extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil and flax oil (the only one of the three that can't be heated). Those are the oils I use. For baking I use a light walnut oil.

Spectrum Naturals is a great oil company here in Petaluma, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live). They have good educational literature that explains all about oils.

As a cook, I gave up using corn oil many years ago because it is too heavy and imparts a flavor to everything. I find it makes cookies greasy.

For salad dressings, a small amount of a full flavored oil is very nice, such as extra virgin olive oil, or toasted nut and seeds oils such as toasted sesame, toasted almond, toasted walnut and toasted hazelnut oils. But for cooking, and especially for baking, when you want a light dessert, the strained "light" oils are best.

These reasons combine health with good texture and taste.

Meredith McCarty




We do not recommend or use corn oil very often especially for people with upper body or breast problems.
I do not think the occasional use, for generally healthy people, when the taste is useful, is a problem.

If people are worried about omega 3’s, they can eat some pumpkin seeds or walnuts in combination with the Standard Macrobiotic Diet. I also have not observed this problem in friends or clients who practice macrobiotics in an open and varied way.

Denny Waxman




Anyone who is making dietary recommendations needs to measure themselves with nutritional science, and within this science there are many different opinions and currents. I have no problems with the basic recommendations of Michio, particularly regarding protein.

With oil you need to be careful, but most people consider the temperature at which them start to smoke to be the main consideration and corn oil is pretty high in this regard. Omega 3 oils are found in soy products and dark green vegetables as well as pumpkin seeds and fish, all products we use.

John Macdougall is a good reference for these considerations as is Michio's son who is a professor of nutrition.

Martin Halsey



It is never recommended that one use corn oil as the only oil...there is safflower, sesame, olive, etc
that can be part of the varied diet most counselors recommend.

I use more flax seed oil and occasional fish, fatty fish in my diet, as well as other omega 3 adjustments to daily intake. There is always something to learn, be it from scientific studies or personal experience. Non-credo and open mind are an important ingredient to meal planning.
Robert N. Carr, Jr.



In response to Steven's comments about corn oil, I have never heard any recommendations that corn oil should be among the oils consumed regularly.

This is based on my studies at the Kushi Institute over many years and also on sitting in on consultations with Michio and hearing his recommendations to people who are sick and come to him for guidance.

The oil I use regularly is toasted sesame. I have never used corn oil regularly, not because of any nutritional studies or others' recommendations but simply because I find it harder to digest than sesame (and according to yin/yang studies, that would be because it is more yin.)

As for the omega-3 issue, there have been numerous studies done (I'm sorry I don't have any before me) that show that the macrobiotic diet provides a balance of nutrients necessary for health as well as numerous lives that have been forever changed by practicing this way of life.

However, everyone practices it differently--especially since when most of us get some degree of health and energy back we move away from thinking about our own condition and become active in society - with teaching, writing, managing food stores and many other activities so it may be that there are deficiencies in some people.

However, I don't recommend the modern way of replacing omega-3's with RAW oils. Raw oils are very yin and should be balanced with heat and salt as in cooking - in my opinion.

Gale Jack


Corn oil is definitely no good, but everybody knows it. It's not even sold in Bread and Circus, our natural foods supermarket, anymore, for the simple reason that most corn today has been genetically modified.

For the non-gmo corn oil -- which you may have in Europe -- it's higher in omega 6 & 9 polyunsaturated fats, which oxidize rapidly and can lead to disease.
Polyunsaturated fats are immune depressing and are associated with higher rates of cancer.
Tom Monte


I pesonally don't use corn oil anymore because it has been genetically altered. I use sesame or olive oil in my daily cooking and safflower oil for deep frying.
Rosemary Triall


Corn oil is now known to be a GMO grain, oil-product so whether it contains poly-un or mono-un or fully saturated fats is not the issue any longer.
Stories abound-a farm with GMO corn has polluted organic corn farms hundreds of miles away through the air borne pollen-so you can do the math.

Susan Kriegerki


We prefer to teach the principles rather than lists of foods to eat ("acceptable") and foods to avoid ("unacceptable"). Thus, we prefer to teach people so that they can think for themselves rather than having to ask someone else, be it a counselor, a website, or even a magazine every time there is such an issue as corn oil. So, I see the issue on a much different level than whether or not corn oil is "acceptable" or "unacceptable." Corn oil, and raw oils, are appropriate for some people at particular times and inappropriate for the same people at other times and for other people at one time, and so on.

Thus, it is very good that Steve has brought up the question and that many people have responded. The more people know about corn oil the better they can determine for themselves whether or not to use it and at what quantity (quantity affects quality as you know), and how to counter the effects if and when it is used. One of the principles we teach is that of variety - the more foods one can include successfully in her or his diet the better.

Of course, there is more to macrobiotics than yin and yang and there is more to life than macrobiotics, or any other system that attempts to describe life in any kind of "comprehensive" way. George Ohsawa and Herman Aihara both remained current on the latest nutritional findings of their day(s) and regularly commented on those findings in relation to macrobiotic principles. We do well to do likewise. So, again, I thank you, Steve, and all those who have responded and are responding on these issues.

Carl Ferre
from the gomf


I don't know further about the details of what Steve Acuff has written beyond what you mention here, but it is mistaken to think that yin and yang is limited or possibly opposed to nutritional science. On the contrary, they are complementary, and understanding nutritional biochemistry, for example, gives one a greater appreciation for the beauty of yin and yang in all phenomena.

I believe that is probably the case for all areas of human knowledge and experience, but I can't speak to that so well. I do agree that one shouldn't be tied so conceptually to yin and yang that it limits your ability to appreciate perspectives that don't mention or recognize these terms.

Regarding corn oil, it is not "unhealthy" - certainly not in the ways that hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils would be, or butter or lard is. It is much better in general than these fats and oils.

I tend to think of what separated fats and oils we should be using in terms of what have been used traditionally, in addition to those that exist naturally in our foods. When we look at most human cultures, there are both animal fats and vegetable oils that have been used traditionally.

The animal fats generally should be minimized (butter, lard, ghee, etc.). Among vegetable oils, there are only a few that were really used as oils traditionally. These include olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, and in some places oils like sunflower or soybean oil. Other oils, like corn oil, are really a relatively modern food, and a result of food processing.

Corn is not a very concentrated source of oils (you don't get very much when you take corn kernels and grind them, unlike sesame seeds, olives, or some other foods). So, from that perspective, I think corn oil could be minimized in favor of other oils.

The idea that heated oils are "toxic" comes from the known process that heating of oils results in higher levels of free radicals. However, if you're using oils that have been stored in a reasonable fashion, it shouldn't be a major concern. In fact, I don't think on a practical level it's much of a concern at all.

It is a much greater concern if you are eating at fast food restaurants that reuse their oil in high-temperature fryers, or if you eat at cheap restaurants that use recycled oil. Of course, you can minimize some of this by using cold-pressed oils (so they haven't been exposed to high heat during extraction).

As far as omega-3 fatty acids go, I think this concern is also overblown. There is some question as to whether vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids (usually, people talk about alpha-linolenic acid in this context, 18:4n3) are readily metabolized to EPA (20:5n3) and DHA (22:6n3), which are then metabolized to all the important things that they do to promote health.

The best natural sources of the latter fatty acids are fish oils, but the fatty ones which are usually not recommended for regular consumption in macrobiotic teachings, although there are certainly instances when these would not be bad for regular consumption. Just to throw some confusion on this issue, there is some evidence that alpha-linolenic acid actually increases the risk of developing prostate cancer.

So, in general, I think a good set of guidelines for oil consumption is that for regular consumption, you should use vegetable oils that are cold-pressed, that tended to be used traditionally, and that are definitely not hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) - these are the really bad fatty acids. If you want to include corn oil for its flavor or cooking properties (different oils do have somewhat different tastes and uses), then go ahead.

I'm not certain what is being referred to as problems related to protein intake, but that is a non-issue as well. Certainly, we do know is that animal sources of protein tend to have negative health effects, whereas vegetable sources tend to have positive health effects.

Lawrence H. Kushi, Sc.D.


1- best to encourage use of seeds & nuts as much as possible, so as to diminish use of oil proper.

2 - discourage use of raw seasoning oil such as Med. people using a lot of olive oil for salad, cooked vegs, pasta, even on bread etc. everywhere in every meal! Very unwise such liberal use, causes skin, liver & circulatory ailments.

3 - dicourage high temp. cooking w oil, i.e. baking floury desserts, or pizzas etc. It might even be wiser for baking such dishes, to use already naturally saturated fats such as coconut or other animal-like fats which are not changed drastically by the high temp.

4 - Clear sesame I find best always, never trusted dark sesame (toasted) , next just out of local tradition, virgin, low acid olive oil, then if one finds good quality, low heat, non-gmo SOY oil, I think that is quite good for tempura, although rapeseed oil I found is top of the roost, but practically non-existing on any market except Japan.

Roberto Marr


Nutrition of fats
by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD.

Olive Oil contains 75% oleic acid, the stable monounsaturated fat, along with 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% omega-3 linolenic acid. The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures. Extra virgin olive oil is also rich in antioxidants. It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives. Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don't overdo. The longer chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short- and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter, coconut oil or palm kernel oil.


Peanut Oil contains 48% oleic acid, 18% saturated fat and 34% omega-6 linoleic acid. Like olive oil, peanut oil is relatively stable and, therefore, appropriate for stir-frys on occasion. But the high percentage of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use of peanut oil should be strictly limited.


Sesame Oil contains 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, and 43% omega-6 linoleic acid. Sesame oil is similar in composition to peanut oil. It can be used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat. However, the high percentage of omega-6 militates against exclusive use.


Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils all contain over 50% omega-6 and, except for soybean oil, only minimal amounts of omega-3. Safflower oil contains almost 80% omega-6. Researchers are just beginning to discover the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not. Use of these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking. High oleic safflower and sunflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have a composition similar to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and, thus, are more stable than traditional varieties. However, it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.

Canola Oil (Rapeseed oil) contains 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega-6 and 10%-15% omega-3. The newest oil on the market, canola oil was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Rape seed is unsuited to human consumption because it contains a very-long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn the attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own.

It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids of processed canola oil are transformed into trans fatty acids, similar to those in margarine and possibly more dangerous. A recent study indicates that "heart healthy" canola oil actually creates a deficiency of vitamin E, a vitamin required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Other studies indicate that even low-erucic-acid canola oil causes heart lesions, particularly when the diet is low in saturated fat.


Flax Seed Oil contains 9% saturated fatty acids, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega-6 and 57% omega-3. With its extremely high omega-3 content, flax seed oil provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today. Not surprisingly, Scandinavian folk lore values flax seed oil as a health food. New extraction and bottling methods have minimized rancidity problems. It should always be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads. Tropical Oils are more saturated than other vegetable oils. Palm oil is about 50% saturated, with 41% oleic acid and about 9% linoleic acid. Coconut oil is 92% saturated with over two-thirds of the saturated fat in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (often called medium-chain triglycerides). Of particular interest is lauric acid, found in large quantities in both coconut oil and in mother's milk.

This fatty acid has strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil protects tropical populations from bacteria and fungus so prevalent in their food supply; as third-world nations in tropical areas have switched to polyunsaturated vegetable oils, the incidence of intestinal disorders and immune deficiency diseases has increased dramatically. Because coconut oil contains lauric acid, it is often used in baby formulas. Palm kernel oil, used primarily in candy coatings, also contains high levels of lauric acid. These oils are extremely stable and can be kept at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid.

Highly saturated tropical oils do not contribute to heart disease but have nourished healthy populations for millennia.72 It is a shame we do not use these oils for cooking and baking—the bad rap they have received is the result of intense lobbying by the domestic vegetable oil industry.73 Red palm oil has a strong taste that most will find disagreeable—although it is used extensively throughout Africa—but clarified palm oil, which is tasteless and white in color, was formerly used as shortening and in the production of commercial French fries, while coconut oil was used in cookies, crackers and pastries. The saturated fat scare has forced manufacturers to abandon these safe and healthy oils in favor of hydrogenated soybean, corn, canola and cottonseed oils.

In summary, our choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance. Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from more fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing newfangled hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Acquaint yourself with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And, finally, use as much good quality butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is a wholesome—indeed, an essential—food for you and your whole family.

From Facts about Fats — The Skinny on Fats
by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon


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