In this paper, we review the effects of rice bran oil (RBO), an unconventional oil recently introduced onto the Indian market for human use. RBO contains oleic acid (38.4%), linoleic acid (34.4%), and linolenic acid (2.2%) as unsaturated fatty acids, and palmitic (21.5%) and stearic (2.9%) acids as saturated fatty acids. The unsaponifiable fraction (4.2%) has total tocopherols (81.3 mg%), gamma-oryzanol (1.6%), and squalene (320 mg%). Oryzanol is a mixture of ferulic acid esters of triterpene alcohols such as cycloartenol (CA) (106 mg%) and 24-methylene cycloartanol (494 mg%). Studies on experimental rats demonstrated a hypolipidemic effect of RBO. The unsaponifiable fraction of RBO lowers cholesterol levels. Feeding phytosterols, CA, and 24-methylene cycloartanol in amounts present in RBO to hypercholesterolemic rats for 8 weeks indicates that CA alone reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels significantly. Endogenous sterol excretion increases in animals given CA. The accumulation of CA in the liver inhibits cholesterol esterase activity, which in turn leads to reduction in circulating cholesterol levels. CA is structurally similar to cholesterol and may compete with the binding sites of cholesterol and sequestrate cholesterol, which is metabolized to its derivatives. RBO, which is rich in tocopherols and tocotrienols, may improve oxidative stability. Tocotrienols inhibit HMG CoA reductase, resulting in hypocholesterolemia. The hypolipidemic effect of RBO has also been established in human subjects. Thus, RBO could be a suitable edible oil for patients with hyperlipidemia.
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