best natural foods

Harm of canola oil

Part I of this article on canola oil had touched on its history and origins. And we saw that it is an artificial food created through genetic manipulation of rapeseed, whose oil is toxic.

Unfortunately, most people do not know the history. They simply assume that canola is a plant that produces canola oil, just as olive produces olive oil, corns produce corn oil, etc.

Scientists may know the history. But to them, genetically modified foods or GM foods are not necessarily considered bad. Becasue scientists routinely fiddle with nature. They see natural products as being imperfect and they consider it their duty to improve upon nature,

For example, I once met a nutritionist who boasted that the "health product" she was selling was made by "taking out the bad things from milk and putting in the good things." This is how scientific-minded people think. The more they fiddle with nature, the better.

Further genetic manipulation

And so, when we look deeper into the history and origins of canola, we find a whole series of genetic manipulations along the way.

After canola was originally produced, another tweak was made to increase its content of Oleic acid, the monounsaturated fatty acid that is abundant in olive oil. This produced High Oleic Canola oil.

Another modification, in 1995, introduced Canola that is resistant to the pesticide, Roundup. Today, about 82 percent of the world's Canola crop is genetically modified. If, like me, you hold the view that GM foods are harmful to health. that alone is enough reason to avoid canola oil.

Canola - no human studies

To date, no long term studies about the effects of canola oil consumption have been done on humans. The oil is simply assumed to be "the best" based on its composition of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids - and baed on the limited understanding of what these different types of fats do to our health.

This is like how the scientific community originally regarded margarine. For decades, scientists declared it to be healthy. It is only now that scientists are starting to realise that the trans fats present in margarine cause heart disease, cancer, obesity and other health problems. And that trans fats are much more harmful than saturated fats.

It is already too late. Over the decades, billions (yes, billions, not just millions) of people have suffered from taking margarine regularly. Yet the idea that "margarine is healthy" remains deeply entrenched. Will Canola be the next "margarine". Only time will tell. By then, it may again be too late.

The results of anikmal studies done so far are not reassuring...

Animal studies - heart health

Canola was originally called Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed or LEAR oil. The earliest studies looked at heart lesions, as it was previously found that rapeseed oil caused various organs, especially the heart, to develop abnormally.

The first published studies on LEAR oil, performed in 1978, had mixed results. Rats that were genetically selected to be prone to heart lesions developed more lesions on LEAR oil and flaxseed oil, than those on olive oil or sunflower oil. But rats genetically selected to be resistant to heart lesions showed no significant difference between the four oils.

In 1979, the Canadian Institute for Food Science and Technology examined 23 studies that looked at the effects of LEAR and other oils on heart lesions in rats. They found that saturated fats protected against heart lesions while high levels of omega-3 fatty acids correlated with high levels of lesions. Erucic acid - the "toxic" component of rapeseed oil - showed a lesser correlation with heart lesions.

Another study, by the Canadian Institute in 1982, found that when saturated fats in the form of cocoa butter were added to the diets, the rats had better growth and a significant lowering of heart lesions. In 2000, two Canadian studies found that rats bred to have high blood pressure as well as to be prone to stroke had shortened life-spans when they were fed exclusively Canola oil.

Animal studies - vitamin E

In 1997, Canadian researchers reported in Nutrition Research that piglets developed signs of Vitamin E deficiency when they were fed a milk replacement containing Canola oil – and this was despite the fact that the milk replacement had adequate amounts of vitamin E. Piglets that were fed soybean oil-based milk replacement did not show such symptoms.

In 1998, the same group of researchers reported in the journal, Lipids, that piglets fed Canola oil suffered from a decrease in platelet count and an increase in platelet size. They also bled longer when cut or injured. Again, these effects were reduced when the piglets were given saturated fats. Another study, reported in The Journal of Nutrition in 1999, confirmed these results.

These studies all point in the same direction - that Canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system. Like rapeseed oil, its predecessor, Canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart.

It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span in stroke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals' diet.

Furthermore, it seems to retard growth, which is why the FDA does not allow the use of Canola oil in infant formula. When saturated fats are added to the diet, the undesirable effects of Canola oil are mitigated.

Most interesting of all is the fact that many studies show that the problems with Canola oil are not related to the content of erucic acid, but more with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of saturated fats.

- Dr Mary Enig
The Great Con-ola

Trans fats

In her article, The Great Con-ola, leading fats and oils researcher Dr Mary Enig highlights yet another problem with canola oil - most of the omega-3s are transformed into trans fats during the deodorization process. And if you research about trans fats, you will know that they are very, very harmful.

Dr Mary Enig further draws attention to the fact that adding saturated fats to the diet removes or at least reduces the problems associate with Canola. This leads Dr Mary Enig to question the idea that monounsaturated fats are good for health. She concludes:

Obviously monounsaturated fatty acids are not harmful in moderate amounts in the context of a traditional diet, but what about in the context of the modern diet, where the health-conscious community is relying on monounsaturated fats almost exclusively? There are indications that monounsaturated fats in excess and as the major type of fat can be a problem.

Overabundance of oleic acid (the type of monounsaturated fatty acid in olive and canola oil) creates imbalances on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production. In one study, higher monounsaturated fat consumption was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Even the dogma that monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart is at risk. According to a 1998 report, mice fed a diet containing monounsaturated fats were more likely to develop atherosclerosis than mice fed a diet containing saturated fat. In fact, the mice fed monounsaturated fats were even more prone to heart disease than those fed polyunsaturated fatty acids.

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