(originally written by Dr. Stephen Gangemi)
Canola oil is a staple in most homes, especially in North America. The fatty acid make-up of the oil appear to make it ideal for cooking and is said to have health benefits due to its high level of monounsaturated fats (61%) and low level of saturated fats (7%).
Even Whole Foods Market uses canola oil in just about everything they make, and a lot of what they sell. But they also use a lot of agave (which should be avoided), and most of their products now contain added sugar and wheat ingredients, which should be limited in every healthy diet whether you’re allergic or not.
The Canola Council wants you to believe that you shouldn’t be without a bottle of canola oil close by; and they’ve even created a website for it to convince you so, just like the Corn Refiners Association has done for high fructose corn syrup.
But before you believe all the hype about how great canola oil is, take a step back and look at the history and production of canola oil and why it may not be ideal, or even recommended for human consumption.
History of Canola Oil
Canola oil is made from the hybridization of rape seed. The rape plant (Brassica rapa or Brassica campestris) is a close relative of broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, and kale.
In its original form, rape plants produce a seed oil that contains high levels (20-50%) of a 22-carbon monounsaturated fat called erucic acid that has been shown to cause a wide variety of pathological changes in laboratory animals.
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In the early 1970′s plant breeders from Canada developed a strain of rape plant that produced a seed with less than 2% of the harmful erucic acid, “safe” for human consumption.
Since rapeseed oil is not something that most would want to buy due to its name, they called it LEAR oil, for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.
Eventually, after realizing that LEAR oil wasn’t selling well, they changed the name again to the now familiar canola oil – CANadian Oil Low Acid – since most of the rapeseed plant at the time was grown in Canada.
Initially, the Canola Council of Canada had problems getting GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status by the US Food and Drug Administration in order to market their oil in the US but it was finally granted in 1985.
It is rumored that the Canadian government spent $50 million to obtain it. Even though canola oil now has GRAS status, no long-term studies on humans have been done, yet supporters state, “There is no credible scientific evidence showing that canola oil is harmful to humans.”