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What to know about mustard oil

Mustard oil comes from the seeds of mustard plants. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which appear to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. However, cooking with the oil may pose a serious risk, especially for children.

People have long used mustard oil in cooking and alternative medicine. It is common in Asian, notably Indian, cuisines. The oil’s strong taste comes from a compound that is also present in horseradish and wasabi.

Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which could mean that it benefits cardiovascular health. It also contains a compound that may have anti-inflammatory properties.

However, the use of mustard oil is controversial, and the potential risks are so great that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have prohibited its use in cooking.

This article will discuss the benefits and risks of using mustard seed oil.

Cardiovascular benefits

Mustard seed oil in glass jar surrounded by mustard seeds on table
Mustard oil may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Researchers have consistently found that including monounsaturated fatty acids in the diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

One systematic review found that people with diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids had lower blood pressure and less body fat than others who consumed fewer of these acids. A high proportion of body fat and high blood pressure increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

While mustard oil contains high levels of these fatty acids, avocados and olive oil contain more.

It is important to note that these potential benefits are likely to be very small, compared with other factors that influence cardiovascular risk. Consuming mustard oil will not compensate for a broadly unhealthful diet or a lack of physical activity.


Anti-inflammatory potential

Mustard oil contains a compound that could be useful for reducing inflammation: allyl isothiocyanate.

One study found that allyl isothiocyanate has anti-inflammatory potential. The study’s authors noted this effect in cell cultures, which are cells that researchers grow in a controlled setting. However, they also found that the anti-inflammatory effect was much smaller in mice.

Results of a more recent study indicate that allyl isothiocyanate reduced inflammation and had a range of other benefits in mice with colitis, a condition that causes inflammation in the colon.

Inflammation is a characteristic of a wide range of health issues, and it can cause a host of symptoms. If allyl isothiocyanate can reduce inflammation, mustard oil could help treat these issues. However, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea.

Nutritional content

Mustard is a plant native to Europe. There are several varieties, and the seeds are ingredients in many foods and condiments.

Producing mustard oil involves pressing or grinding these seeds. The oil is much more potent than the condiment called mustard.

Mustard oil is predominantly made up of monounsaturated fatty acids. In 100 grams (g) of mustard oil, there are:

  • 59 g of monosaturated fatty acids
  • 21 g polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • 11 g saturated fatty acids

The allyl isothiocyanate in the oil gives mustard its strong taste and may contribute some health benefits. This compound is also present in foods such as horseradish and wasabi.


Dangers and side effects

Woman preparing food in kitchen for cooking recipe while child in foreground plays on tablet
Mustard oil is not safe for use as a cooking oil.

Mustard oil may pose a serious risk because it contains high levels of erucic acid.

This monounsaturated fatty acid is present in several oils. In small doses, erucic acid is safe, but higher levels may be dangerous.

Research in animals indicates that, over long periods, erucic acid may cause a heart condition called myocardial lipidosis.

It is unclear whether humans experience the same effect, but high levels of erucic acid could pose risks to certain groups, such as children.

In 2016, the FDA issued a warning that mustard oil is not safe to use in cooking because of its high erucic acid content. This means that the FDA do not permit its use as a cooking oil in the United States.

How to use

It is never safe to use pure mustard oil in cooking or to take it as a dietary supplement. It is best to avoid eating or drinking it.

Topical application of mustard oil

Mustard oil is available as an essential oil. The safest method of using it is to dilute it in a carrier oil and apply it to the skin.

People should not diffuse mustard essential oil close to anyone who may be allergic to it. Taken orally, mustard essential oil is toxic.


Takeaway

Mustard oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and could have some health benefits. However, there is little direct scientific evidence to support the idea.

Mustard oil may pose a serious health risk, and the FDA prohibit its use in cooking.

In the future, more research may better determine the safety of using mustard oil. Until then, it is best to avoid the product.

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