Is Canola Oil Dangerous to Your Health?
Canada, oil, low acid…these are words that blend to form “canola” – an oil that comes from Canadian rapeseed, which is a member of the mustard family. Canola oil has been hyped in the media as a cheaper, healthier version of olive oil, but evidence shows that it is anything but healthy. It is typically unsuited for consumption by people and animals due to high quantities of gluconsinolates and erucic acid – a long-chain fatty acid that has been associated with fibrotic heart lesions. In fact, rapeseed oil has been used in the past as a pesticide and a lubricant.
Removal of Glucosinolate and erucic acid to form canola oil calls for heavy processing which requires high heat. Unfortunately, polyunsaturated oils such as corn, soybean and canola oil are unstable under high heat causing them to oxidize, which can increase the amount of harmful free radicals in the body. Oxidation also causes inflammation which can contribute to weight gain, heart disease, cancer and other types of disease.
In addition to the use of high heat, the process of extracting canola oil calls for the use of hexane – a toxic petroleum solvent. Unfortunately, traces of hexane typically remain in the oil. Further, the processing of canola oil involves bleaching, caustic refining and degumming which is more than unappetizing, it is unhealthy!
Because the high content of omega-3 fatty acids causes canola oil to become rancid and foul-smelling when exposed to high heat and oxygen, it must be also be deodorized. This process changes a large portion of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids into trans fatty acids. Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville found trans fatty acid levels as high as 4.6 percent in canola oil, contrary to the Canadian government assurance of 0.2 percent.
When used as an ingredient in processed grocery foods, a large portion of canola oil is hardened through hydrogenation which can bring the trans fatty acid levels to as high as 40% in some foods. While this is not good for the consumer in terms of health, it is good for the manufacturer because higher trans fat levels mean a longer shelf life for the product.
Critics have dismissed the mounting evidence against canola oil as speculation and rumor, but studies have shown otherwise. Not only is canola oil linked to fibrotic lesions, but it can deplete the body of needed vitamin E. This important vitamin is responsible for protection of cell membranes against free radical damage and is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Research also shows that canola oil causes detrimental changes to blood platelets, and it shortens the life span in rats that are prone to stroke if it is the only oil in the diet. It also appears to impede growth which may explain why it is not allowed in infant formula.
Basically these studies all come to the same conclusion – that canola oil is unhealthy for lab animals and most likely humans as well.
Despite increasing unhealthy claims about canola oil, there are healthy types. When purchasing canola oil, choose products that are:
Organic – This ensures that the plant has not been treated with dangerous chemicals.
Cold-Pressed – Seeds are slowly pressed without the use of high heat and solvents. This also ensures the retention of valuable vitamins and minerals that are robbed from the seed when high heat is used.