No More Canola Oil For Me

Bottled canola oilCanola Oil Dangers

Some people believe that the fears regarding Canola Oil and other Poly-Unsaturated Fats have been largely overstated in recent years. Emails circulated, and stories abound on Facebook and Twitter, accusing Canola Oil of causing everything from emphysema, anemia and allergies, to constipation, irritability and blindness. While the Canola Council has set up a website trying to debunk most of these myths (of course they have, they are the Canola Council!), I’m not buying it.  Even if they are right, and there is plenty of evidence that they aren’t, there are plenty of reasons why people looking to enjoy a cleaner, more natural and healthier diet should opt to nix Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids from their pantries.

What Are Poly-Unsaturated Fats?

We know Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs) as Safflower Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, Canola Oil and maybe a few others. Poly-unsaturated fats can also be found in coffee, walnuts, wheat germ and sunflower seeds, but for the purposes of this post, I am largely referring to the cooking oils that are so abundant in today’s kitchen. By definition, PUFAs have more than one double bond in their carbon chain. These double bonded carbon links are missing their hydrogen atoms, which separates them from saturated fats.

Poly-Unsaturated Fats Cause a Storm of Free Radicals in the Body.

While some governmental and pseudo health agencies generally consider PUFAs to be better for consumption than saturated fats, there are a whole host of health dangers associated with PUFAs. Because they have multiple incomplete double bonds, they are considered “unstable” and prone to oxidation. Heating and exposing PUFAs to light, air and moisture encourages free radical production.  Free radicals can harm everything from cell membranes to DNA/RNA strands, to blood vessels and organ systems. Many people on the Paleo Diet (not for me, but thanks for asking) either avoid Poly-Unsaturated Fats altogether or choose to just eat raw sunflower seeds and nut butter sparingly, says the Mark’s Daily Apple blog. They look for the freshest cold-pressed olive oils and fish oils (rather than canola oil — which tends to sit on the shelves for long periods of time – thus, increasing the odds of oxidation.)

Are PUFAs Linked to Cancer?

Animal studies in Finland found evidence that “a high intake of PUFAs stimulates several stages in the development of mammary and colon cancer, from an increase in oxidative DNA damage to effects on cell proliferation, free oestrogen levels and hormonal catabolism.” Tabulating the effects of PUFAs is much trickier in humans and has not been confirmed or denied.

The Low Smoke Point of Some Types of Canola Oil Has Been Linked to Lung Cancer.

A 2002 study found a correlation between lung cancer and women in rural Gansu, China who cooked with rapeseed and linseed oils. Scientifically speaking, the “smoke point” refers to the temperature at which oil begins to decompose, generating toxic fumes and releasing free radicals into the air. When it comes to canola oil, all types are not created equal. While refined canola oil has a high smoke point of 465 degrees (which is actually better than olive oil’s 320 degree smoke point), unrefined canola oil has a very low smoke point of 200 degrees.

Refined Canola Oil Goes Through Too Much Processing.

Many of us are looking to eat as naturally as possible, without a lot of processing. Don’t overlook your oils! To make canola oil, manufacturers have to use high temperature mechanical pressing and hexane solvent extraction. Some of this hexane remains in the oil, even after considerable refining. The bleaching and degumming processes (at very high temperatures) are of questionable safety. To prevent the oil from going rancid, it’s deodorized by removing the Omega-3 fatty acids and turning them into trans fats.

Canola Oil Is A Genetically Modified Organism.

GMOs are a hotly debated issue in nutrition. At least 80% of the canola acres sown are genetically modified. The long-term dangers of genetically modified foods have not been well-studied. They are believed to cause new types of allergic reactions in the body, according to Brown University researchers. Some GMOs are treated with antibiotics that lower our natural immunity and makes medications less effective. GMOs are believed to harm the environment because they are difficult to isolate in fields; as a result, “herbicide-resistant super weeds” are proliferating, which increases the amount of chemicals farmers need to use on their crops to get a decent yield.

Canola Oil Causes Inflammation

And then here’s the worst news.  Maybe not worst, it’s all been pretty bad so far…  Oils that are high in poly-unsaturated fats cause inflammation.  You know, the bad kind of inflammation inside your body that leads to heart disease and cancer.  All sorts of studies have been done that show the higher your use of canola oil and vegetable oils, the higher your risk for coronary disease.  Often, these studies were done to show how healthy these oils are, but actually showed the opposite!

Bottom line, there are so many reasons to avoid the well known canola oil dangers, and other polyunsaturated fats used in cooking and pre-packaged food, that it simply becomes too hard to justify buying any more at all.  Especially when there are many suitable alternatives, such as coconut oil, butter and ghee, to name a few.

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