Sesame oil is very high in linoleic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids (EFAs) our bodies cannot produce. Essential fatty acids are necessary for normal growth and for healthy blood, arteries, and nerves. They keep the skin and other tissues youthful and healthy by preventing dryness and scaliness. Recent scientific research has shown that EFAs also play an important role in regulating blood pressure, cholesterol metabolism, and the flow of biochemicals across cell membranes. Over all, EFAs are involved with producing life energy in our body from food substances, and moving that energy throughout our system. Since the advent of food processing, particularly oil and grain refinement, EFA deficiencies and imbalances are showing up in some people. Linoleic acid deficiencies include hair loss, skin eruptions, mood swings, arthritis-like conditions, susceptibility to infections, failure of wound healing, and, in extreme cases, heart, liver, and kidney disease.
Modern medical research has shown that the consumption of sesame oil lowers cholesterol and is beneficial for the heart and kidneys. In laboratory experiments, researchers at the United States Food and Drug Administration reported that a diet high in sesame oil significantly lowered cholesterol levels in animals. Research in Japan has shown that a diet rich in sesamin, a natural phytoestrogen found in sesame oil, reduces the risk of renal hypertension and cardiac disease.
Sesame oil is also rich in oleic acid, the major constituent of olive oil. Unrefined oils that are high in oleic acid are thought to benefit cardio-vascular health.
Unrefined sesame oil contains an antioxidant called sesamol, which protects it from becoming rancid. Antioxidants are also scavengers of free radicals, which are known to cause degenerative disease. One study performed at University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, Japan, actually demonstrated that sesamol inhibits the damage caused by free radicals on DNA. Sesamol has been used by the meat industry to help preserve the color and flavor of refrigerated meats. A Harvard Medical School study showed that mice with damaged intestines recovered much faster on a diet rich in sesame oil. Moreover, blood levels of interleukin, an important disease fighting blood component, were markedly higher on the sesame oil diet.
The effectiveness of sesame oil and sesamol as chemo-preventive agents with regard to cancer may go beyond their function as antioxidants. Researchers at Howard University's School of Pharmacy explained that the "potent" beneficial effect that these substances have on skin cancer in mice cannot be solely explained by the effect of free radical absorption, and they recommended further research.