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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.