Sunflower oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils in the food manufacturing industry. Sunflower oil is utilized as a base oil in commercial salad dressings, as a shortening in baked regular wheat products, or as a preservative oil in processed farmed fish like canned salmon and tuna. While this is the case, excluding sunflower oil from your diet is prudent as consumption of this edible oil may result in harmful health effects.
Sunflower Oil’s Risks:
Sunflower oil is first and foremost a high-calorie edible oil, with about 120 calories in a mere tablespoon of serving. Add to this the fact that sunflower oil either lacks in or is completely devoid of crucial vitamins and minerals. Though it does contain vitamins E and K, it does not have any zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, or selenium in it. So, taking even small amounts of this edible will already eat into a big proportion of your daily recommended caloric intake, without at all providing you with other necessary nutrients.
Sunflower oil, though extracted from a plant source, is noticeably without phytosterols in it. Phytosterols are lipid-like compounds that have been proven to play a vital role in combating oxidative stress. Phytosterols have been found to decrease the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol, in the blood as well.
Sunflower oil has considerable pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids content and very little of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. And even if it does contain some trace amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3, regular oral administration of sunflower oil has not shown to increase ALA levels, as was established in a Peru-based study1 on human subjects.
Negative Impacts on Insulin & White Blood Cells
Sunflower oil consumption appears to negatively affect insulin and white blood cell levels as well. In a Spain-based study2 conducted on aged rats fed for life with sunflower oil, the latter’s levels of insulin doubled, and their white blood cells were considerably increased as well, as compared to aged rats that were given life-long with olive oil. Though studies on this edible oil’s effect on insulin and white blood cells on humans are absent, individuals with prediabetes or existing diabetes, as well as those with blood disorders, may do well to steer clear of sunflower oil altogether.
Increases Bone Loss
Sunflower oil’s lack of antioxidants may make it an unsuitable dietary supplement for treatment of age-related alveolar bone loss due to periodontal disease as well. Alveolar bone is where our teeth are. In another Spain-based study,3 rats were given n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3-PUFA) from fish oil, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) from virgin olive oil, and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n6-PUFA) from sunflower oil. Those given fish oil and extra virgin olive oils had reduced bone loss, while those given sunflower oil exhibited advanced alveolar bone loss.
A Known Allergen
Lastly, sunflower, the source of this edible oil, is a known allergen. Individuals with known sensitivity to sunflower, as well as to ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, and marigolds should avoid sunflower oil at all costs. Cross-allergenicity may exist with mugwort and sagebrush pollen as well, and so individuals with allergies to these plants must steer clear of sunflower oil as well.