Study Finds Frying Oil Consumption Worsens Colon Cancer and Inflammation

Recent research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientists has found that consuming frying oil may worsen colon cancer and colitis. In their study, they found that feeding frying oil to mice led to heightened inflammation of the colon, tumor growth, gut leakage, and spreading of bacteria and their toxic byproducts into the circulatory system. Published on August 23 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, this work was conducted by lead author and Ph.D. student Jianan Zhang, associate professor Guodong Zhang, and professor and department head Eric Decker.

The frying of foods in vegetable oil is practiced globally, but there is little research regarding the effects consuming such food has on one’s health. Also, the existing research focuses on the effects of these foods on healthy people rather than the general public. To directly assess how frying oil affects inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer, the UMass team tested the effects of such oil consumption in animal models.

Background of the UMass Study

In these experiments, the researchers used a sample of canola oil that had been used to fry falafel. Jianan Zhang noted that canola oil is commonly used in the frying process in America. Decker leveraged his background as an expert in lipid chemistry by analyzing the oil. The molecular structure of the oil changes during the frying process, so Decker measured the fatty acid profiles, level of free fatty acids, and the oxidation status.

The frying oil was combined with fresh oil and added to a powder diet given to one group of mice. The mice in the control group consumed a powder diet containing only the fresh oil for comparison. Guodong Zhang noted that the diet given to these mice was designed to model the human diet.

The primary effects analyzed by the researchers were colonic inflammation, tumor growth, and gut leakage. After comparing the two groups, the team found that the mice who consumed the frying oil displayed worsened characteristics in each of these categories.

“The tumors doubled in size from the control group to the study group,” explained Guodong Zhang.

The food scientist team hypothesized that the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids that takes place during the heating process is integral to this inflammation. They isolated polar compounds from the frying oil and fed them to the mice to test this, finding similar results to those from the experiment that exposed the mice to frying oil. These results suggest that the polar compounds created during the heating of the oil dictate inflammation.

These UMass researchers hope that these findings will help create a better understanding of how frying oil can affect one’s health. Further research in this realm could lead to changes in dietary guidelines and public health policies.

“For individuals with or prone to inflammatory bowel disease, it’s probably a good idea to eat less fried food,” concluded Guodong Zhang.

Author Affiliations

Authors of this study include; UMass Amherst food scientistsJianan Zhang, Xijing Chen, Ran Yang, Qin Ma, Weipeng Qi, Katherine Z. Sanidad, Yeonhwa Park, Eric A. Decker, and Guodong Zhang, as well as Daeyoung Kim from the UMass Mathematics and Statistics department.