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What is Cottonseed Oil?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 21, 2024
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Cottonseed oil is classified as a vegetable oil. It is extracted from the cotton plant, or more accurately from the seeds, and is generally used for cooking. Since it does not require hydrogenation, it is lower in cholesterol than many other oils and has little to no trans-fats per serving. Seed oils are preferred for diets that require lowered intakes of saturated fats. This makes cottonseed a good oil for preparing healthier foods.

Kitchen tests show that cottonseed oil performs as well as or better than other oils for cooking food, and withstands higher temperatures. It lasts a long time and stores well, due to its high antioxidant content. This oil also gives fried foods a similar, yet lighter flavor when compared to other oils, and food achieves a similar color and texture. Chips and snacks fried in it may have a longer shelf life due to its antioxidant qualities.

Along with each of these properties, cottonseed oil also costs less than many other varieties, making it popular among restaurant owners and snack food manufacturers. The oil meets the government's highest food quality standards, in part because it can be cleaned and processed to the highest purity without losing its nutritional value. Very few others can make the same claim.

Cottonseed oil is not only good for healthier cooking and eating, however. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center presented news about a compound found in Chinese medicine that is produced from the oil. This compound, named (-)-gossypol, may help chemotherapy be more effective in patients suffering from cancers of the head and neck. Such cancers have typically not been very treatable with chemo or radiation, leaving many patients with no other option than surgery.

While more research is in order, it is believed that this compound may block certain proteins that create resistance to chemical treatments, and may also limit tumor growth. So far, results have been somewhat promising, and at this stage, (-)-gossypol does not shows signs of harming healthy tissue. Cottonseed oil and its derivatives may play vital roles in helping people live healthier lives and in curing diseases now and in the future.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon973250 — On Oct 09, 2014

Do not eat cottonseed oil, write the FDA often about removing it from food, and write manufacturers of foods you like telling them to remove cottonseed oil or risk losing your business.

By anon350505 — On Oct 05, 2013

I don't know about whether Gossypol is a known male infertility causing agent. But in Kazakhstan (near Russia), they have preferred to eat cottonseed oil for hundreds of years.

Kazakhstan not a rich country,and they produce oil with gossypol. To clean gossypol from oil, they calcinate it on a frying pan before cooking, but it can't be eliminated completely. But every family in this country has no less than four babies!

By anon348301 — On Sep 15, 2013

I have done a lot of experimenting with foods that have cottonseed oil in it and food that doesn't have cottonseed oil in it and every time I eat the food with cottonseed oil, my face breaks out terribly. This is not a food and shouldn't be used as such.

By anon347329 — On Sep 05, 2013

Gossypol is a known male infertility causing agent. It is why they have allowed cottonseed oil to be put into everyday foods. This is how they will reduce the population.

By anon312043 — On Jan 04, 2013

After my son ate potato chips that contained cottonseed oil recently, he looked like someone had burned him from head to toe with a hot iron. I questioned the manufacturer of the chips and they said it's a cheap alternative and our FDA would not do anything to harm the public.

I called a loud bullcrap on that. Cottonseed oil has been used in China as a male contraceptive and there is no limit on the amount of pesticide it can contain. I don't care what anybody says: cotton is not a vegetable and should not be eaten.

By anon257538 — On Mar 27, 2012

You are not allergic to cottonseed oil. You're reacting to the poisons sprayed on cotton plants to make harvesting easier!

Cotton fields are sprayed with sodium chlorate, def 6, folex, thidiazuron (dropp, etc), ginstar (thidiazuron + diuron), and a number of other "-cides" that are harmful for human consumption. Do not eat things cooked in cottonseed oil! For your information, Crisco is cottonseed oil!

By anon178773 — On May 22, 2011

I can't believe what I reading here. "Good for healthy cooking and eating"? You have to be out of your mind. For me, even a small amount will cause intestinal cramps so severe that it will require a trip to the emergency room! How small? The Crisco (crystallized cottonseed oil) used on pie tins of cookie sheets is enough.

Fries, chips, anything with it and I am on the floor gasping for air. It should be labeled like peanut oil. I think many people who think they have irritable bowel actually are allergic to cottonseed oil. If you have this symptom about three hours after eating a fried food, you have the allergy.

By anon162267 — On Mar 22, 2011

Shortly after eating potato chips, I do not feel right. My body gets very stiff. I believe I am allergic to cottonseed oil.

By anon136103 — On Dec 21, 2010

I often had severe cramps and diarrhea after eating fries or chips. Friends suggested it's the fat. I found out that I was sick each time I had McDonald fries but not from other places. Then I found out that they used cottonseed oil. I stay away from fried food that lists cottonseed oil or only 'vegetable oil' and I'm fine now.

By anon108184 — On Sep 01, 2010

I used to get sick to my stomach after eating lays brand potato chips and violently ill after eating a burger with a special sauce at a local restaurant.

I started paying attention to the labels and found the common ingredient was cottonseed oil. I can tell now when I have ate something that has cottonseed oil because I have a flu like reaction.

It is very common in things like muffin mixes and peanut butter. It is harder and harder to find food that does not contain this product. I have very few food allergies and pretty much eat everything but stay away from this ingredient at all costs!

By anon92580 — On Jun 29, 2010

There is cottonseed oil in my testosterone injection. Do you think it has the bad stuff removed. It's going to be too hard to get my doctor to get some different stuff compounded.

By anon92132 — On Jun 26, 2010

If I consume anything cooked in cottonseed oil, I am violently ill. I no longer have battered fish and chips and need to take care in restaurants and cafes when ordering food. Once I had no more than six chips, which had been deep fried in CSO and I was nauseated. My doctor has no idea and all my allergy tests have been clear.

Any clues would be appreciated. Shaun H.

By anon87928 — On Jun 02, 2010

If we had an honest FDA, cottonseed oil would be banned as a food. That was before the crop became GMO.

There is absolutely no question that food is being used as a WMD against the American people. There are so many toxins in our food supply it confounds the mind.

Eat fresh whole foods or perish. Make sure none of them are GMO.

By anon64816 — On Feb 09, 2010

"gossypol does not shows signs of harming healthy tissue"

Do you mean, except for low fertility rates and hypokalemia (low potassium levels leading to a feeling of fatigue)? Or do you mean, except for the fact that it can be toxic to humans? I realize many toxins can be used as medication and to treat disease. However, these toxins are treated as controlled substances and should not applauded as an incidental ingredient in our food supply.

The only true reason why anyone would consider using cottonseed oil is because it is cheap and takes longer to spoil. (But hey! if little creatures don't want to eat it, why would I?) Companies use it to save money and the cotton industry promotes it because the oil would otherwise be a waste product.

Some people may also be concerned that most of the cottonseed oil in the US comes from GMO crops. They may also be concerned that cotton plants aren't regulated as a food crop in the US and farmers may use many more pesticides during cultivation.

This whole article reeks of misinformation and half truths. Please wise up, geek.

By anon63754 — On Feb 03, 2010

Has anyone complained about their face breaking out because of an allergic reaction to cottonseed oil? After eating potato chips (ingredients: potatoes, salt and cottonseed oil) my face started breaking out.

By anon60828 — On Jan 16, 2010

Is cottonseed oil approved in a gluten free diet?

By anon56786 — On Dec 17, 2009

Is cotton seed oil healthy to use at home for all age persons?

By anon50978 — On Nov 02, 2009

Cottonseed oil is exactly what it says it is; oil made from the cottonseed. However few in the public realize that until a serious toxin in the oil, gossypol, is removed, that cottonseed oil is actually so toxic that it is often used as a pesticide. Further, since cotton crops are under far less chemical regulation than other other crops used specifically for food, many pesticides or chemicals can be used on cotton crops that are illegal for use on food crops, yet the cottonseed can find its way into the food chain because of this major legal loophole in the regulation of food and chemicals by the FDA.

Some serious pesticides or chemicals could resist processing and find their way into the food chain because of this.

By anon43714 — On Sep 01, 2009

Where is cotton grown in India?

By anon41956 — On Aug 18, 2009

How do you deacidify raw cotton seed oil?

By anon34154 — On Jun 17, 2009

What is the usage of cottonseed oil's waste?

By anon14786 — On Jun 24, 2008

There is a lot of GM Cotton around, especially in Australia where I live. How do we find out what brands are GM free?

By anon14749 — On Jun 23, 2008

Is it true cottonseed oil has high concentration of pesticides? Cotton, and its seed, is not a food and therefore can tolerate chemical applications that would normally be dangerous to humans.

By anon11018 — On Apr 07, 2008

The reason why Cottonseed oil is low in cholesterol is that it's not from an animal. None of the [plant] oils used today have any cholesterol. Cholesterol comes only from animal products, not plants.

By anon491 — On Apr 26, 2007

please what are the chemical properties of cotton seed oil in detail?

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