Rice bran oil is extracted from rice bran, the outer layer of the rice grain.
It’s commonly used as a cooking oil in many Asian countries, including Japan, India, and China.
As a byproduct of rice milling, rice bran is usually used as animal feed or discarded as waste. Yet, it has recently gained attention for its potential health benefits as an oil.
Here are 9 impressive benefits of rice bran oil.
1. Contains beneficial nutrients
Rice bran oil provides healthy fats and a variety of other nutrients.
One tablespoon (14 ml) packs 120 calories and 14 grams of fat (1Trusted Source).
Similarly to other nontropical vegetable oils like canola and olive oil, rice bran oil contains higher proportions of heart-healthy unsaturated fat than saturated fat.
It also boasts 29% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin involved in immune function and blood vessel health (1Trusted Source, 2).
Other compounds in rice bran oil, such as tocotrienols, oryzanol, and plant sterols, have been studied for their health benefits (3Trusted Source).
2. May support healthy blood sugar levels
Rice bran oil may support healthy blood sugar levels by improving insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (4Trusted Source).
Insulin lowers blood sugar by transporting sugar into your cells. Yet, if you develop insulin resistance, your body stops responding to this hormone.
In a test-tube study in mouse cells, rice bran oil reduced insulin resistance by neutralizing free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may lead to oxidative stress (5Trusted Source).
In a 17-day study in mice with type 2 diabetes, rice bran oil significantly lowered blood sugar levels by increasing insulin levels, compared with the control group (6Trusted Source).
A human study found similar results. The morning after 19 healthy men ate a single meal containing 3.7 grams of rice bran mixed in oil, their blood sugar levels dropped 15%, compared with those who didn’t eat this ingredient (7Trusted Source).
Yet, no changes in insulin levels occurred, suggesting that rice bran oil may even support healthy blood sugar levels without affecting insulin (8Trusted Source).
As such, more research is needed.
3. May promote heart health
Rice bran oil may promote heart health (9Trusted Source).
In fact, the Japanese government recognizes this oil as a health food because of its cholesterol-lowering effects (3Trusted Source).
Early studies in mice show that rice bran oil significantly lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol while boosting HDL (good) cholesterol (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Human studies likewise note that this oil reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol (12Trusted Source).
A review of 11 randomized, controlled trials in 344 people linked rice bran oil intake to significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels — an average drop of 6.91 mg/dL. Just a 1 mg/dL decrease in LDL can reduce heart disease risk by 1–2% (13Trusted Source).
Eight of the studies involved people with hyperlipidemia, or high concentrations of fat in the blood, while the remaining ones monitored people without this condition.
In a 4-week study in people with hyperlipidemia, following a low-calorie diet with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of rice bran oil per day led to significantly decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as reductions in other heart disease risk factors, such as body weight and hip circumference (14Trusted Source).
Researchers attributed the improvements in cholesterol levels to the oil’s plant sterols, which prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol.
4. Has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
Several compounds in rice bran oil have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
One of these compounds is oryzanol, which has been shown to suppress several enzymes that promote inflammation (15Trusted Source).
In particular, it may target inflammation in your blood vessels and heart membrane. If untreated, this inflammation can trigger atherosclerosis — the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease (16Trusted Source).
Furthermore, test-tube studies in mouse cells reveal that other active compounds called tocotrienols inhibit inflammation (17Trusted Source).
In a 4-week study, 59 people with hyperlipidemia took either 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of rice bran oil or soybean oil. Compared with soybean oil, rice bran oil significantly increased people’s antioxidant capacity, which may help combat oxidative stress (18Trusted Source).