• HNE (4-Hydroxynonenal) is a molecule that plays a crucial role in the development of obesity.
  • HNE is a byproduct of the consumption of omega-6 fats found in seed oils, and its connection to weight gain has been backed by solid evidence.
  • Studies have shown that reducing HNE levels in single-cell yeasts and roundworms results in leaner worms, as HNE disrupts the regulation of glucose and fat storage.
  • A study in mice showed that reducing HNE levels reversed the effects of diet-induced obesity, and a study in humans showed that obese individuals have higher levels of HNE compared to lean individuals.
  • The majority of nutrition researchers agree that there is a link between consuming fried foods, rich in omega-6 and HNE, and the development of obesity and other negative health outcomes. Reducing HNE levels can be achieved by limiting the consumption of linoleic acid found in liquid seed oils.

Discover the Surprising Connection Between HNE, Omega-6 Fats, and Weight Gain: How Cutting Linoleic Acid Can Benefit Your Health

Recently, researchers have shed light on the crucial role played by a molecule named HNE (4-Hydroxynonenal) in the development of obesity. This molecule is a byproduct of the consumption of omega-6 fats, which are predominantly sourced from seed oils in our diets. The connection between seed oil-derived HNE and weight gain is now backed by solid evidence.

In 2001, a group of Austrian researchers embarked on an experiment to observe the effects of HNE on single-cell yeasts. The cells were exposed to small amounts of HNE, and the results were striking. Unlike the untreated cells, which remained free from fat accumulation, the HNE-treated cells experienced significant fat buildup within a mere two hours. And by the end of 11 days, the HNE-treated cells had either perished or were burdened by an excessive amount of fat.

In 2008, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas took their experiment to the next level by studying the effects of HNE on C. elegans, a tiny roundworm with a mere thousand cells. The results mirrored those of the earlier yeast study, with the roundworms treated with HNE showing a noticeable accumulation of intracellular fat. The correlation was clear: the greater the amount of HNE, the plumper the roundworms became.

The research team came to a groundbreaking conclusion – the buildup of body fat could not only be countered by reducing food intake, but also by reducing the levels of HNE, even in the presence of an overabundance of food. Their findings further revealed that a decrease in HNE resulted in lean worms.

The relationship between HNE and weight loss in worms is thought to be related to the regulation of energy metabolism. HNE has been shown to interfere with the normal functioning of metabolic pathways, including the regulation of glucose and fat storage. In particular, HNE has been found to disrupt the activity of key enzymes involved in fat metabolism, such as acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase, leading to an accumulation of fat in the worms. By reducing HNE levels, the normal functioning of these metabolic pathways is restored, promoting the efficient breakdown and utilization of fat stores, resulting in weight loss.

In 2020, a study conducted by researchers revealed a correlation between elevated levels of HNE and increased body weight in mice, even when they consumed the same number of calories and displayed similar levels of physical activity as mice without elevated HNE levels. The mice with elevated HNE levels were referred to as “ALDH2*2” in the study.

The study found that elevated HNE levels did not alter the food intake or activity levels of the obese mice, but it did impact the number of calories they burned over the course of their lives. However, when these obese mice were treated with a detoxifier to lower HNE levels, the effects of diet-induced obesity were reversed.

Turning our attention to humans, a study conducted comparing HNE levels in individuals with varying body compositions revealed some interesting insights. The study included participants who were obese diabetics, non-obese diabetics, and endurance-trained athletes. The results showed that the obese individuals had notably higher levels of HNE in comparison to the lean individuals, while the endurance-trained athletes had the lowest levels of HNE.

Further studies have shown that engaging in physical activity can decrease HNE levels, leading to the suggestion that the fat-loss benefits of exercise may stem not only from burning extra calories but also from reducing HNE levels. Similarly, separate research has uncovered that adopting a ketogenic diet can also result in lower HNE levels.

HNE is produced in our bodies as a result of the breakdown of omega-6 fats, but it can also enter our body from external sources, such as high omega-6 cooking oils and foods that have been fried at high temperatures. The high heat accelerates the transformation of omega-6 into HNE, leading to its presence in these food items.

A study conducted in 2015 and featured by the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) saw researchers from the University of Minnesota investigating the levels of HNE in different foods. In their findings, they highlighted that french fries containing higher levels of linoleic acid, the primary omega-6 fat in our diets, also had elevated levels of HNE.

A curious trend has been observed in Europe, where individuals who consume the highest amounts of fried food actually consume fewer overall calories compared to those who consume the least, yet are 26% more likely to be obese. This may be due to the fact that fried foods are typically prepared using repeatedly heated high omega-6 seed oils, which are known to be rich in HNE.

In a randomized trial conducted on mice, the impact of consuming fried seed oils was evaluated. The results showed that the group of mice consuming single-heated soybean oil had higher fasting glucose levels, which might indicate the beginning signs of glucose intolerance.

The majority of nutrition researchers agree that there is a strong link between consuming fried foods and the development of obesity, inflammation, and various diseases. However, the culprit behind the harm caused by fried foods may not be the high caloric density, saturated fat, or sodium content, but rather the presence of high levels of omega-6 and HNE.

Reducing the levels of HNE in your body may be best achieved by limiting the primary source of omega-6 fat in our diets – linoleic acid present in liquid seed oils. To help you make informed choices, here’s a list of oils that are lowest and highest in omega-6 linoleic acid:

Cooking Oils Lowest in Omega-6 Linoleic Acid:

Olive oil
Avocado oil
Coconut oil

Cooking Oils Highest in Omega-6 Linoleic Acid:

Soybean oil
Corn oil
Sunflower oil
Canola oil

In conclusion, the accumulation of HNE in the body has been linked to obesity and other negative health outcomes. To reduce HNE levels, it is recommended to limit the consumption of linoleic acid, the primary source of omega-6 fat in our diets found in liquid seed oils. By choosing oils that are lower in omega-6 linoleic acid, such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and butter, you can support your body’s metabolism and promote a healthier body composition. By being mindful of the oils you consume, you can make informed choices that positively impact your health.


Willow Brennan is the editor of SeedOils.com, a blog focused on health and wellness. With an interest in botany and holistic medicine, Willow has become obsessed with the use of fruit oils and animal fats for improving overall health. Before starting her homestead life with her family, she had a short career as a park ranger, where she fell in love with the outdoors and the importance of preserving natural habitats. When not writing or tending to her homestead, Willow indulges in her love of photography and capturing the beauty of nature. Feel free to email her at Editor@SeedOils.com.

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