Corn oil (maize oil) is oil extracted from the germ of corn (maize). Its main use is in cooking, where its high smoke point makes refined corn oil a valuable frying oil. It is also a key ingredient in some margarines. Corn oil is generally less expensive than most other types of vegetable oils. One bushel of corn contains 1.55 pounds of corn oil (2.8% by weight). Corn agronomists have developed high-oil varieties; however, these varieties tend to show lower field yields, so they are not universally accepted by growers.
Corn oil is also a feedstock used for biodiesel. Other industrial uses for corn oil include soap, salve, paint, rustproofing for metal surfaces, inks, textiles, nitroglycerin, and insecticides. It is sometimes used as a carrier for drug molecules in pharmaceutical preparations.
Almost all corn oil is expeller-pressed, then solvent-extracted using hexane or 2-methylpentane (isohexane). The solvent is evaporated from the corn oil, recovered, and re-used. After extraction, the corn oil is then refined by degumming and/or alkali treatment, both of which remove phosphatides. Alkali treatment also neutralizes free fatty acids and removes color (bleaching). Final steps in refining include winterization (the removal of waxes), and deodorization by steam distillation of the oil at 232–260 °C (450–500 °F) under a high vacuum.
Some specialty oil producers manufacture unrefined, 100%-expeller-pressed corn oil. This is a more expensive product since it has a much lower yield than the combination expeller and solvent process, as well as a smaller market share.
Constituents and comparison
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|Monounsaturated fatty acids||Polyunsaturated fatty acids||Smoke point|
|Total mono||Oleic acid
|Total poly||linolenic acid
|Avocado||11.560||70.554||13.486||1||12.5||249 °C (480 °F)|
|Canola||6.8||65.3||64.1||27.9||9.2||18.7||238 °C (460 °F)|
|Coconut||91.000||6.000||6||3.000||2||175 °C (347 °F)|
232 °C (450 °F)
|Cottonseed||25.900||17.800||19||51.900||1||54||216 °C (420 °F)|
107 °C (225 °F)
|Olive||14.000||72.000||14.000||1.5||15||193 °C (380 °F)|
|Palm||49.300||37.000||40||9.300||10||235 °C (455 °F)|
|Peanut||20.3||48.1||46.5||31.5||31.4||232 °C (450 °F)|
|Safflower (>70% linoleic)||8.000||15.000||75.000||
212 °C (414 °F)
|Safflower (high oleic)||7.541||75.221||12.820||238 °C (460 °F)|
|Soybean||15.650||22.783||24||57.740||7||50||238 °C (460 °F)|
|Sunflower (<60% linoleic)||10.100||45.400||45.3||40.100||0.2||39.8||
227 °C (440 °F)
|Sunflower (>70% oleic)||9.859||83.689||3.798||
227 °C (440 °F)
|Values as percent (%) by weight of total fat.|
- Of the saturated fatty acids, 80% are palmitic acid (lipid number of C16:0), 14% stearic acid (C18:0), and 3% arachidic acid (C20:0).
- Over 99% of the monounsaturated fatty acids are oleic acid (C18:1 c)
- 98% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids are the omega-6 linoleic acid (C18:2 n-6 c,c) with the 2% remainder being the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (C18:3 n-3 c,c,c).
Effects on health
Some medical research suggests that excessive levels of omega-6 fatty acids, relative to omega-3 fatty acids, may increase the probability of a number of diseases and depression. Modern Western diets typically have ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 in excess of 10 to 1, some as high as 30 to 1, partly due to corn oil which has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 49:1. The optimal ratio is thought to be 4 to 1 or lower.
A high intake of omega-6 fatty acids may increase the likelihood that postmenopausal women will develop breast cancer. Similar effects were observed on prostate cancer. Other analysis suggested an inverse association between total polyunsaturated fatty acids and breast cancer risk.
- Corn Refiners Association. Corn Oil 5th Edition. 2006
- "Nutrient database, Release 24". United States Department of Agriculture. All values in this column are from the USDA Nutrient database unless otherwise cited.
- What is unrefined, extra virgin cold-pressed avocado oil?, The American Oil Chemists’ Society
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