Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Health Benefits Associated with Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil expressed from sunflower (Helianthus annuus) seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. There are a variety of health benefits associated with the consumption of sunflower oil.

Diet and cardiovascular benefits
Sunflower oil is high in the essential vitamin E and low in saturated fat. The two most common types of sunflower oil are linoleic and high oleic. Linoleic sunflower oil is a common cooking oil that has high levels of the essential fatty acids called polyunsaturated fat. It is also known for having a clean taste and low levels of trans fat. High oleic sunflower oils are classified as having monounsaturated levels of 80% and above. Newer versions of sunflower oil have been developed as a hybrid containing linoleic acid. They have monounsaturated levels lower than other oleic sunflower oils. The hybrid oil also has lower saturated fat levels than linoleic sunflower oil. Sunflower oil of any kind has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits as well. Diets combined with a low fat content and high levels of oleic acid have been suggested to lower cholesterol which, in turn, results in a smaller risk of heart disease. Sunflower oils fit this criteria. Studies of adults suggested that a balanced diet in which small quantities of saturated fats are replaced with sunflower oil has detectable cholesterol-reducing benefits. Research suggests that lower cholesterol levels can be caused by balances of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Sunflower oil may help with this balance.

Restaurant and food industry uses
Restaurants and food manufacturers are becoming aware of the health benefits of sunflower oil. The oil can be used in conditions with extremely high cooking temperatures. It may also help food stay fresher and healthier for longer periods of time. Food manufacturers are starting to use sunflower oil in an effort to lower the levels of trans fat in mass produced foods. A number of common snack foods currently contain sunflower oil, including NewYork Fries French fries, Majans BHUJA Mix healthy snacks, the Sri Lankan style Bombay Mix - Rani Mix, Kettle Chips, Sun Chips, Sunflower Chips, Ruffles, Walkers and Lay's potato chips; the recipe of the latter was modified in late 2006 in order to include the oil.

Sunflower oil as skin protection
Sunflower oil, like other oils, can retain moisture in the skin. It may also provide a protective barrier that resists infection in pre-term infants. Studies using sunflower oil have been conducted involving low birth weight pre-term infants that are often susceptible to infection due to their underdeveloped skin. The study determined that infants receiving a daily skin treatment of sunflower oil were 41% less likely to develop infections in hospital.

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