‘Health benefits’ of canola oil analysed

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th June 2013

Consuming canola oil instead of other fats could have health benefits and help consumers comply with expert dietary fat recommendations, according to a new review of scientific studies from the last 25 years by the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba.

The review, published the June 2013 peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Reviews, showed that canola oil could reduce the risk of heart disease and suggested that it may also protect against other chronic diseases.

“The objective of this review was to examine the health benefits of canola oil as a dietary component itself, rather than focus on the effects of individual types of fat in the oil,” said Peter Jones, Ph.D, lead researcher and Director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. “This approach results in practical advice to consumers about including canola oil in the diet,” he said.

The review looked at the effects of canola oil consumption on cholesterol, heart disease, inflammation, insulin sensitivity, oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, energy metabolism and cancer. A total of 270 studies were evaluated, of which 40 were directly considered relevant to the review. All 40 papers described human studies, with the exception of those related to cancer conditions where only cell culture and animal studies exist to date.

Benefits of canola oil consumption

Data from the studies revealed that canola oil consumption “substantially reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels and improves insulin sensitivity” when used in place of saturated fats. It also increases levels of tocopherol (vitamin E) compared with other dietary fat sources. The studies also showed that:

  • Canola oil can help consumers meet dietary fat recommendations (less than 10 per cent saturated fat from total daily calories, minimal trans fat and no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day) and can be included in a diet designed to reduce cholesterol.
  • Compared with high-saturated fat or “typical Western diets”, canola oil-based diets can reduce total and LDL cholesterol in healthy people and those with high cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • With 61 per cent monounsaturated fat, canola oil may prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidised LDL may contribute to inflammation in the arteries and heart disease risk.
  • Canola oil may promote immune and cardiovascular health through its anti-blood clotting and antioxidative effects.
  • Early research indicates the potential for canola oil to protect against breast and colon cancers.

“Canola oil can now be regarded as one of the healthiest edible vegetable oils in terms of its biological functions and its ability to improve health and aid in reducing disease-related risk factors,” said Mr Jones. “Current research is expected to provide more complete evidence to support the health-promoting effects of canola oil when consumed at levels consistent with dietary guidelines,” he said.

In October 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised a qualified health claim for canola oil on its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated fat.

The latest review was equally funded by the Canola Council of Canada and the US Canola Association.

History of canola oil

Australian Food News notes that canola oil was first developed and branded commercially by the University of Manitoba in Canada in the 1970s. Its origins as a commercial product began by refining rapeseed oil to improve its nutritional profile.

Originally, the name ‘canola’ was a trademark, but has since come to be used in reference to all edible types of rapeseed oil in North America and Australia.