What’s the deal with Canola oil? Also known as rapeseed oil.

A field of rapeseed plants, also known as ‘canola.’  Kind of pretty…in a terrible monoculture kind of way.

Is canola oil healthy?  Or is canola oil bad for you?

I’ve never heard convincing information supporting the claim that canola oil is a healthy oil.  The same goes for grapeseed oil and safflower oil.  The local organic grocery store uses canola oil in almost all of their prepared foods…they use it like it’s going out of style!  I’ve always felt a little twinge inside when I buy something containing these oils…a little voice saying “this is not right.”  I know it sounds silly, but it’s true!

 

Is there any real science on this?

 

Yes!  In December 2017, scientists (researchers from Alzheimer’s Center at Temple University, auretti E, Praticò D. Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.Sci Rep. 2017 Dec 7;7(1):17134. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-17373-3), conducted a study on mice, feeding one group a ‘standard’ diet, and fed another group a diet supplemented with canola oil for a period of 6 months.  “Their findings debunked the claims of Canola oil marketers, demonstrating negative impacts to bodies and brains. Mice who were chronically exposed to canola oil experienced a significant increase in body weight; a gain of nearly one-fifth of total weight recorded just six months earlier. Effects on the brain were equally undesirable.  Mice showed impairments in their working memory, demonstrated by decreased problem-solving abilities. Together with reduced levels of beneficial brain proteins that mark synaptic integrity, or how well neurons are firing, the mice performed significantly worse on all tests as compared to control mice.  Synaptic integrity can affect whether or not critical connections are made in the brain, something that is vital to a functional memory and enjoying a high quality of life.  Canola oil impairs synaptic integrity, which greatly exacerbates the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.” – Green Med Info

 

I also found science-based information in Max Lugavere’s new book “Genius Foods,” regarding seed oils,  and it’s more bad news.

In his book, Max Lugavere explains that there are 4 main types of oils, or fats, that we consume:

  1. saturated fat
  2. monounsaturated fat
  3. polyunsaturated fat
  4. trans fat

It is commonly known that #4 (trans fat) is really bad news, and people are now heeding the warnings enough to actively avoid trans fats, and food brands market their products with “0% trans fat!” labels.

But what about polyunsaturated fats?   Canola oil, along with other seed or grain oils, such as corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil, and grapeseed oil, and I would guess pumpkin seed oil, are all polyunsaturated fats.  Some claim that because polyunsaturated fats contain some omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, this means that polyunsaturated fats are safe, and even healthy to consume.  Some claim that when comparing all of the polyunsaturated seed/grain oils, canola is the most healthy, because it has more omega 3 fatty acids than the others.  But omega 3’s are unstable, and therefore they oxidize quickly and easily.  Oxidation equals damage.  Damaged oils damage the body by causing inflammation.  There’s the first problem.

Rapeseed seedpod

The second problem lies in the processing. We’ve had to develop machinery and chemicals to extract the oils from these seeds.  And then, the deodorization process takes place, so that the oil is tasteless, and odorless, unlike good ol’ olive oil.  Do we want oils that are tasteless and odorless?  I know it can be convenient to use a tasteless and odorless oil to make mayonnaise, but is it really what we want?  The human tongue is one of the most sophisticated set of sensors on the planet….we rely on our tongue to tell us if a substance has ‘gone bad,’ or if an oil has been damaged, or ‘gone rancid.’  If you make the oil tasteless, you’re taking away the ability to determine if the oil is rancid or not.  That is very dangerous in my opinion – like I said — damaged oils damage the body.

In addition, the deodorization process CREATES trans fats!  According to Max Lugavere, about 5% of grain and seed oils are trans fat!!    Trans fat causes inflammation, and cancer.  

I read that foods like grass fed beef, eggs, and fish have trace amounts of polyunsaturated fat, but these are trace amounts.  When you think about the crackers or chips we buy in the snack aisle, we can see that we have left the ‘trace amounts’ train far behind.  The seed oil is a large and important part of these foods, designed to activate the reward centers in our brains.

 

As a final note, I learned that roasted nut butters can also contain some unsavory/unstable polyunsaturated fat, so make sure you buy raw nut butters, or make them yourself.

 

Bust out the grass-fed and/or organic lard, tallow, duck fat, lamb fat, ghee, butter, coconut oil and whatever else is good and wholesome!

Be well,

Holobiont

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