|August 20, 2022

Study Reveals Canola Oil Is Bad for the Brain

By Julie Hand
Reviewed for Scientific Accuracy

Study Reveals Canola Oil Is Bad for the Brain

A study in the journal Scientific Reports[1] links canola oil consumption to memory deterioration, degenerative learning ability, and weight gain in mice – symptoms modeling Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). The study is the first of its kind to reveal that canola oil is indeed more harmful than beneficial for brain health.

Earlier in 2017, the study’s authors Dr. Domenico Praticò and Elisabetta Lauretti, conducted similar research[2] with extra-virgin olive oil. They found that an EVOO-enriched diet reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau (biological markers of AD) in the rodents. The mice also showed signs of memory improvement. Because canola oil is touted as a healthy vegetable oil and is one of the most widely consumed oils in the world,  the researchers wondered whether canola oil would offer similar brain benefits. “Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy,” explained Praticò. “Very few studies, however, have examined that claim.”

Canola oil harms memory, impairs learning ability, and causes weight gain

For this study, the team divided young, healthy mice without Alzheimer’s into two groups. The first group ate a normal diet while the second group consumed a similar diet supplemented with the equivalent of approximately two daily tablespoons of canola oil. Assessing the mice again at 12 months, the team observed that the canola oil group weighed significantly more than the control group. When the mice then ran through maze tests to assess memory and learning ability, the canola oil group experienced significant decline. These findings confirm that regular, long-term consumption of canola oil has negative effects on memory and brain health. Dr. Praticò noted, “Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy…Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”

Debunking the health benefits of canola oil

Who says canola oil is beneficial anyway? Well, for one, the American Heart Association (AHA) lists it as a healthy oil on their website. However, this is a good time to point out that The Canola Council is a sponsor of the AHA – which equals a looming conflict of interest that stems from big money. When considering health recommendations, it’s always a good idea to research who is funding that information before you accept it as gospel.

Choose these healthy fats instead

Speaking of research, there are a number of studies that demonstrate the positive effect of olive oil on the brain — including improving memory, learning[3], and long-term cognition[4][5].

Related: 4 Healthy Fats for Cooking

Coconut oil is also a beneficial way to obtain healthy fats from oil. It’s important to understand the difference between omega-3 and omega-6 fats – so that you know how to fuel your brain properly. To dive deeper into that discussion, listen to this podcast, where Los Angeles Lakers nutritionist Dr. Cate Shanahan reviews the benefits of healthy animal-based fats versus unhealthy vegetable oils.

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