Dangers of ubiquitous soybean oil? + How Visine eye drops in mouth can kill

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Soybean oil can lead to neurological conditions, depression, diabetes, & obesity

RELEASE: New UC Riverside research shows soybean oil not only leads to obesity and diabetes, but could also affect neurological conditions like autism, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, and depression. Used for fast food frying, added to packaged foods, and fed to livestock, soybean oil is by far the most widely produced and consumed edible oil in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In all likelihood, it is not healthy for humans.

It certainly is not good for mice. The new study, published this month in the journal Endocrinology, compared mice fed three different diets high in fat: soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid, and coconut oil. The same UCR research team found in 2015 that soybean oil induces obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver in mice. Then in a 2017 study, the same group learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces less obesity and insulin resistance.

However, in the study released this month, researchers did not find any difference between the modified and unmodified soybean oil’s effects on the brain. Specifically, the scientists found pronounced effects of the oil on the hypothalamus, where a number of critical processes take place. “The hypothalamus regulates body weight via your metabolism, maintains body temperature, is critical for reproduction and physical growth as well as your response to stress,” said Margarita Curras-Collazo, a UCR associate professor of neuroscience and lead author on the study.

The team determined a number of genes in mice fed soybean oil were not functioning correctly. One such gene produces the “love” hormone, oxytocin. In soybean oil-fed mice, levels of oxytocin in the hypothalamus went down. The research team discovered roughly 100 other genes also affected by the soybean oil diet. They believe this discovery could have ramifications not just for energy metabolism, but also for proper brain function and diseases such as autism or Parkinson’s disease. However, it is important to note there is no proof the oil causes these diseases. Additionally, the team notes the findings only apply to soybean oil — not to other soy products or to other vegetable oils.

“Do not throw out your tofu, soymilk, edamame, or soy sauce,” said Frances Sladek, a UCR toxicologist and professor of cell biology. “Many soy products only contain small amounts of the oil, and large amounts of healthful compounds such as essential fatty acids and proteins.”

A caveat for readers concerned about their most recent meal is that this study was conducted on mice, and mouse studies do not always translate to the same results in humans. Also, this study utilized male mice. Because oxytocin is so important for maternal health and promotes mother-child bonding, similar studies need to be performed using female mice.

One additional note on this study — the research team has not yet isolated which chemicals in the oil are responsible for the changes they found in the hypothalamus. But they have ruled out two candidates. It is not linoleic acid, since the modified oil also produced genetic disruptions; nor is it stigmasterol, a cholesterol-like chemical found naturally in soybean oil.

Identifying the compounds responsible for the negative effects is an important area for the team’s future research. “This could help design healthier dietary oils in the future,” said Poonamjot Deol, an assistant project scientist in Sladek’s laboratory and first author on the study. “The dogma is that saturated fat is bad and unsaturated fat is good. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat, but the idea that it’s good for you is just not proven,” Sladek said.

Indeed, coconut oil, which contains saturated fats, produced very few changes in the hypothalamic genes. “If there’s one message I want people to take away, it’s this: reduce consumption of soybean oil,” Deol said about the most recent study.

How Visine eye drops in the mouth can kill, here are two cases

EXCERPT: Don’t do what the Owen Wilson character did in the movie Wedding Crashers. Don’t do most things that he did. Don’t crash weddings to hook up with strangers. Don’t say that people use only 10% of their hearts when you reveal only 10% of your true identity. Don’t say “wow” so often. But most importantly don’t put Visine eye drops in someone’s drink. You could kill the person.

Just look at some recent eye dropping news. On Thursday, Lana Sue Clayton was sentenced to 25-years in prison for voluntary manslaughter. [...] Then there’s the case of Joshua Lee Hunsucker, a former paramedic in North Carolina, who’s been charged with first degree murder, as described by Mark Price for the Charlotte Observer. As this ABC News segment described, he allegedly used Visine eye drops to poison and eventually kill his wife, 32-year-old Stacy Robinson Hunsucker:

[...] I’ve reached out to Visine and Johnson and Johnson for comment on these cases. I will drop in updates here accordingly.

[...] To do their thing, such eye drops should go into your, you guessed it, eyes. Not your mouth or other orifices. Otherwise, they’d be called “other orifice drops.” They are also called drops and not buckets because you are only supposed to use limited amounts. Typically, correct use is no more than two drops in your eyes six times a day. If you stay within these limits, your risk of bad toxicity may be relatively low.

It’s a different story if eye drops go down your mouth. Your eyes may be bigger than your stomach, but these body parts are just not the same. That’s why you don’t typically eat your contact lens. Tetrahydrozoline can be absorbed through your gastrointestinal tract into your main blood circulation much more readily and then travel to your heart and central nervous system. There it can get the drop on you and slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure to dangerous levels. It can also lead to a drop in body temperature, a coma, and, of course, death.

As the two cases demonstrated, even relatively small amounts can be toxic. The smaller the body size, the less that’s needed to cause major problems and even be life threatening. So if you’ve got children or very small actors around, make sure that you keep eye drops safe and secure. You don’t want them putting even a few milliliters of the stuff into their mouths.

If you suspect someone has ingested tetrahydrozoline, do not try to make the person vomit it back up as that may actually increase their absorption of the chemical. Instead, loosen any tight clothing that they may be wearing, such as a belt, a necktie, skinny jeans, or a Black Widow’s costume. If needed, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Call poison control and get emergency care as soon as possible. Oh, and even if the person’s eyes are red, don’t give him or her more eye drops.

In general, be careful about using such eye drops, even if they go where they are supposed to go... (MORE - details)

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