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The Untold Truth: Harmful Effects of Canola Oil

Canola oil is a popularly used oil that is marketed as a “heart-healthy oil”. However, in reality, canola oil is far from healthy. First of all, canola oil is not a natural, plant-derived oil. The term “canola” is a commercial name for the genetically modified version of the toxic rape plant. In other words, it is entirely manmade.

The canola plant was first created in a Canadian university lab by Dr. Baldur Steffanson for the company Calgene (now owned by Monsanto). The goal was to produce a less toxic version of rapeseed oil that would meet the standards and guidelines of the FDA to be used in mass production. Although Steffanson achieved this goal and synthesized the canola seed with lower levels of the toxic erucic acid, the long-term consumption of canola oil has been found to still have many toxic effects on the body.

close up of the inside of a cup of canola oil

The Toxic Effects of Canola Oil (and other Polyunsaturated Oils)

Despite conflicting information about whether or not canola oil is healthy, there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the toxic effects of canola oil and other polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich oils. 

Here are just a few…

Increased Oxidative Stress

As discussed in a recent blog post, oxidative stress is at the root of skin aging and disease. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants produced by the body. Canola can contribute to oxidative stress in a few ways. First, the reactive chemical nature of the polyunsaturated fats are known to increase the rate of lipid peroxidation. Secondly, canola oil can deplete important antioxidants like vitamin E. These effects greatly contribute to the imbalance that is known as oxidative stress, which is implicated in skin aging, cancer, and more. 1

Toxic Herbicides & Pesticides

Aside from being toxic on its own, the canola plants used to make canola oil are often routinely sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. These have been found to have numerous negative health effects. For example, exposure to herbicides and pesticides have been associated with dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects. 2

Makes Cells Rigid

The polyunsaturated fats in canola oil have been found to increase the rigidity of membranes, which can impair cellular function and contribute to many degenerative diseases. 3, 5

Allergies & Asthma

Canola oil contains a high sulfur content, which can contribute to its volatility and susceptibility to becoming rancid. Consuming rancid oil triggers allergies by stimulating the production of histamines and other inflammatory immune cells that exacerbate allergies and conditions like asthma. 5

Cancerous

There are many toxic effects of canola oil that can increase the risk of cancer. For starters, canola oil increases both oxidative stress and inflammation, two major contributing factors to cancer. Studies have even found that the consumption of canola increases the chances of developing lung cancer. 6

Accelerates Aging

Canola has been found to shorten the lifespan of animals. This is likely due to the increase of oxidative stress, impairment of cellular energy metabolism, and other toxic qualities. 7

Impair Digestion

The canola plant contains many toxic acids, such as erucic acid, arachidonic acid, and others known to impair digestion. These substances along with other plant toxins like lectins, phytates, and goitrogens are capable of inhibiting protein digestion by decreasing the secretion of HCL (stomach acid) and protein-digesting enzymes. 

bottle of canola oil


Special Considerations & Tips

Given the very apparent toxic nature of canola oil, we suggest avoiding its consumption at all costs. Because of the way canola is manufactured, when it goes rancid, it does not put off an odor or leave a bad taste in the mouth. However, because of its chemical structure, it is easily oxidized and most likely always rancid to some degree, especially if it is used to cook.

Keep in mind that even “health food stores” such as Whole Foods, or other markets will regularly use canola oil as their primary cooking and dressing oil. Be sure to read labels and ask if you are unsure. Instead of canola, we suggest sticking to non-toxic oils with a more stable structure. Good examples are saturated fat-rich oils like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, tallow, and extra virgin olive oil.

To learn more about the skin-damaging effects of oils like canola, and which fats/oils to avoid and use, be sure to read these earlier posts:

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