Canola Oil: Separating Fact from Fiction

Canola oil is one of the healthiest culinary oils in the world with zero trans fat and the lowest amount of saturated fat of all common cooking oils. In fact, canola oil is recognized as a heart-smart oil by many health organizations. It has been rigorously tested and approved by authoritative scientific bodies for human consumption and yet canola oil is often the subject of misinformation and disinformation.

Questions about canola oil

What is canola oil?
Was canola developed using genetic engineering?
How is canola oil processed?
Have human studies been conducted on the consumption of canola oil?

Is canola oil healthy?
What are some other uses for canola oil?
How long can canola oil be stored?


Resources

"Canola Oil: Separating Fact from Fiction" Fact Sheet


External Links

Mayo Clinic says canola oil is healthy.
Snopes - Debunking the myth about canola oil!

 

What is canola oil?

Canola is a crop that is grown widely in Canada, Europe and Australia as well as in several areas in the United States. Canola plants produce beautiful small yellow flowers which develop into pods, resembling pea pods. Each pod contains tiny black seeds, made of about 45% oil. After harvesting, the seeds are crushed to release the canola oil.

Was canola developed using genetic engineering?

Canola was developed by traditional plant breeding from rapeseed during the 1960s and 70s, long before biotechnology was available. The new plant, which is lower in two unwanted components of rapeseed, was given the name "canola" with an internationally regulated definition. Traditional breeding was also used to develop high oleic canola oil to be used by the food industry instead of sources of artificial trans fat. Plant breeders are constantly making improvements to help farmers deal with challenges such as drought, pests and crop diseases. Today, many different varieties of canola are available including genetically modified (GM) and non-GM canola.

About 80% of the canola grown in Canada has now been modified using biotechnology to make it tolerant to some herbicides. Using these specific herbicides has reduced the amount of chemical needed for weed control in the fields.

Remember - the canola plant has been modified, not the oil. So canola oil from the herbicide tolerant plant is exactly the same safe and healthy oil as canola oil from conventional plants. The modification has been made to only one canola gene and it is a protein. Processing removes all proteins from canola oil. That means canola oil made from GM seed is conventional canola oil.

How is canola oil processed?

Canola oil can be produced by simply crushing the seeds to extract the oil. De­pending on the temperature conditions used, this is referred to as "expeller-press" or "cold-press" and removes about 80% of the oil. The canola meal that remains is used as a protein-packed animal feed. Raising the temperature slightly, allows more of the oil to be released from the seed. Oil is not water-soluble so hexane, a sol­vent approved for oil extraction can be used to remove more of the oil. The hexane extraction is done under carefully controlled conditions and is recycled and reused. It does not stay in the oil or the meal.

Following extraction, canola oil can be further refined to remove minor compo­nents, producing a shelf-stable, clear and neutral tasting oil. Although the term "bleaching" is used to describe this process, it refers to the removal of color pig­ments by a filter containing natural clay. While any oil is susceptible to damage from air, heat and light, great care is taken during processing to ensure the finished prod­uct is of high quality. Canola oil processed in this way and stored at room tempera­ture will last approximately one year.

For more information, visit our "How Canola is Processed" page.

Have human studies been conducted on the consumption of canola oil?

Clinical trials to examine canola oil and its effects on the body have been conducted by many different investigators, involving thousands of human volunteers over the decades and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Canola is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption, including use in infant formula. These studies examined the role of canola oil in lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The studies confirmed that when used as part of a balanced diet, canola oil has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and have a beneficial effect on clot formation, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Is canola oil healthy?

Canola oil is high in unsaturated fats and has the lowest amount of saturated fat among the common cooking oils. It contains high amounts of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat; and linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Many clinical trials have shown that canola oil has health benefts when used instead of other fat sources. Canola oil is eligible to carry a qualifed health claim from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its ability to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when used in place of saturated fat in the diet.

What are some other uses for canola oil?

Any plant-sourced oil such as olive, corn, soybean and flax can be used industrially to make lubricants, oils, fuel, soaps, paints, plastics, cosmetics or inks. In fact, any organic hydrocarbon (including ALL vegetable oils) can be processed and denatured to make industrial chemicals. Proteins in milk can be used to make glue. Wheat and canola can be used to make ethanol, and canola seed can be used to produce biodiesel.

How long can canola oil be stored?

Canola oil's shelf life stored at room temperature is about one year. The shelf life of most plant-based cooking oils is similar.