Q. How Healthy Is Canola Oil Really?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., March/April 2010

How Healthy is Canola Oil?

A. Canola oil comes from canola seeds. They are a genetic variation of rapeseed that was developed in the 1960s using traditional plant-breeding methods to make the rapeseed more palatable.

But canola often gets a bad rap. For example, we get questions from people who’ve heard canola oil is toxic and can cause various diseases, from emphysema to Mad Cow. The truth is there are no sound scientific studies suggesting a link between canola oil and any disease.

We also hear concerns that canola oil is genetically engineered (GE). This is true—most canola (93 percent in the U.S.) is GE. If that’s a concern for you, choose certified organic.

EatingWell often uses canola oil in our recipes because it’s one of the healthiest oil choices. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind that, when used to replace saturated fats like butter and cheese, can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Canola is the richest cooking-oil source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that has been linked to heart health.

Canola is also versatile: it has a neutral taste, light texture and a medium-high smoke point, so it works well for sautéing and baking. (An oil’s smoke point is the temperature at which it begins to smoke. When it does, disease-causing carcinogens and free radicals are released, so you never want to heat your oil to that point.)

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10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs

1. GMOs are unhealthy.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.

Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.

The American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that condemn the use of GM bovine growth hormone, because the milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)―which is linked to cancer.

2. GMOs contaminate―forever.
GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel. It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool. Self-propagating GMO pollution will outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. The potential impact is huge, threatening the health of future generations. GMO contamination has also caused economic losses for organic and non-GMO farmers who often struggle to keep their crops pure.

3. GMOs increase herbicide use.
Most GM crops are engineered to be "herbicide tolerant"―they deadly weed killer. Monsanto, for example, sells Roundup Ready crops, designed to survive applications of their Roundup herbicide.

Between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. Overuse of Roundup results in "superweeds," resistant to the herbicide. This is causing farmers to use even more toxic herbicides every year. Not only does this create environmental harm, GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides. Roundup, for example, is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.

4. Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects.
By mixing genes from totally unrelated species, genetic engineering unleashes a host of unpredictable side effects. Moreover, irrespective of the type of genes that are inserted, the very process of creating a GM plant can result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.

5. Government oversight is dangerously lax.
Most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments' superficial regulations and safety assessments. The reason for this tragedy is largely political. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, doesn't require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their GM foods onto the market without even notifying the agency. Their justification was the claim that they had no information showing that GM foods were substantially different. But this was a lie. Secret agency memos made public by a lawsuit show that the overwhelming consensus even among the FDA's own scientists was that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. They urged long-term safety studies. But the White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology, and the agency official in charge of policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney, later their vice president. He's now the US Food Safety Czar.

6. The biotech industry uses "tobacco science" to claim product safety.
Biotech companies like Monsanto told us that Agent Orange, PCBs, and DDT were safe. They are now using the same type of superficial, rigged research to try and convince us that GMOs are safe. Independent scientists, however, have caught the spin-masters red-handed, demonstrating without doubt how industry-funded research is designed to avoid finding problems, and how adverse findings are distorted or denied.

7. Independent research and reporting is attacked and suppressed.
Scientists who discover problems with GMOs have been attacked, gagged, fired, threatened, and denied funding. The journal Nature acknowledged that a "large block of scientists . . . denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk, partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge." Attempts by media to expose problems are also often censored.

8. GMOs harm the environment.
GM crops and their associated herbicides can harm birds, insects, amphibians, marine ecosystems, and soil organisms. They reduce bio-diversity, pollute water resources, and are unsustainable. For example, GM crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies, whose populations are down 50% in the US. Roundup herbicide has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruptions, and organ damage in animals even at very low doses. GM canola has been found growing wild in North Dakota and California, threatening to pass on its herbicide tolerant genes on to weeds.

9. GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world.
Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists' 2009 report Failure to Yield―the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, authored by more than 400 scientists and backed by 58 governments, stated that GM crop yields were "highly variable" and in some cases, "yields declined." The report noted, "Assessment of the technology lags behind its development, information is anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty about possible benefits and damage is unavoidable." They determined that the current GMOs have nothing to offer the goals of reducing hunger and poverty, improving nutrition, health and rural livelihoods, and facilitating social and environmental sustainability.
On the contrary, GMOs divert money and resources that would otherwise be spent on more safe, reliable, and appropriate technologies.

10. By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the coming tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply.
Because GMOs give no consumer benefits, if even a small percentage of us start rejecting brands that contain them, GM ingredients will become a marketing liability. Food companies will kick them out. In Europe, for example, the tipping point was achieved in 1999, just after a high profile GMO safety scandal hit the papers and alerted citizens to the potential dangers. In the US, a consumer rebellion against GM bovine growth hormone has also reached a tipping point, kicked the cow drug out of dairy products by Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Dannon, Yoplait, and most of America's dairies.

The Campaign for Healthier Eating in America is designed to achieve a tipping point against GMOs in the US. The number of non-GMO shoppers needed is probably just 5% of the population. The key is to educate consumers about the documented health dangers and provide a Non-GMO Shopping Guide to make avoiding GMOs much easier.


11/12/2012 - 2:25pm

What about the study where they fed pigs canola oil in their diet, and their blood platelets stuck and congested, and other ill effects took hold.


11/13/2012 - 7:06pm

hempseed oil is the choice for healthy nutritional diets.


11/16/2012 - 10:25pm

Why would you want to use genetically engineered oil and not a non-engineered oil?
Use peanut, olive, vegetable. Don’t trust the FDA and Canada which funded the money for the approval.


11/28/2012 - 11:01pm

Canola is named from Canadian Oil and doe not come from Canola Seeds.
It is Rapeseed Oil from Rapeseed modified and super heated.
In Canada it is used for lubrication for machines.
Using Canola Oil? Paint the rust spots on your vehicle with it.
Not appropriate for human consumption.


12/10/2012 - 12:32pm

I personally don't agree that we should lend ourselves unknowingly, until the science is in! We know that GMOs are NOT YET proven to be safe, so until then I choose to not be used as an experiment!



12/10/2012 - 9:34pm

The above discussion is a putff piece in my opinion. The best article I have read on canola oil is the article "Canola Oil: Is it Healthy?" in Well Being Journal, v. 21, no. 6 Nov./Dec. issue by Bruce Fife, N.D. He is not a fan but he may be somewhat biased since he has also written several books promoting coconut oil. However, his arguments are scienc base and seem sound to me. He discusses both the euricic acid issue and the animal studies that suggests detrimental health effects.
As I understand it, the initial development of the rapeseed plant in Canada so that the oil is low in euricic acid was accmplished using traditional plant breeding techniques. While one could argue this is a form of genetic engineering (GE) but I don't find this aspect of canola oil objectionable in theory. Humans have been selectively breed plants for centuries and this process affects most food plants.. Since then the low euricic acid rapeseed plant has been genetically modiified to incorporate genes that confer resistance to glysophate (the herbicide Roundup from Monsanto). Unless it is labeled organic, almost all canola oil in the USA is GMO and grown using Roundup to control weeds. Glysophate degrades only very slowly and eventually has to end up as a contaminant in canola oil. Based on what I have read, no one should eat any food containing glysophate residues. It causes numerous deleterious health effects including birth defects, genetic damage, and cancer. I would recommend going to and doing a search on Roundup or glysophate for anyone interested. Dr. Butz at Purdue University relates stillbirths and miscarriages in domestic livestock to GMO animal feed (most soy and corn feed to animals is also GMO), So here are my questions with regard to GMO canola, soy, corn, and safflower: 1) does euricic acid have deleterious health effects even at low levels, and 2) are the deleterious health effects seen in the animal studies with canola oil, due to a) the canola oil, b) the glysophate contaminants, 3) novel antigen proteins or components the plant could be producing as a consequence of the insertion of a foreign gene is inserted into its DNA, or 4) the degradation products that develop as a consequence the extensive high heat and chemical processing of commercial canola oil? I am not aware on any studies that isolate and answer these questions. Anyway, my decision is to not use canola oil, even organic, so I make my own salad dressings. If you do decide to use canola oil, the only healthful way to go is cold, expeller pressed organic.


12/10/2012 - 10:01pm

On 12/16/12 I eliminated ALL Canola Oil from my diet, and my health is recouping day by day. I will healthy, delicious fat spread at the end.
I read that it takes 10 years for outward symptoms to manifest, and that is correct in my case. I began buying Canola Oil at my trusted natural grocer by a healthy oil brand. The only ill affect I recall in retrospect, was notable lower jaw and mouth tension.
In 2010 a myriad of symptoms began which constitute a syndrome. I developed food intolerances/allergies to wheat, grains, sugar, and chocolate. I had episodes of inflammation and sickness that sent me to bed for 2-3 days. Sores erupted on my tongue, and my hair fell out excessively. I had heart arrhythmias. I had fatigue, neck pain, and small blood vessels that popped out on my abdomen. My abdomen ached if I consumed carbohydrates. I experienced sudden urinary weakness/leakage, and “IBS”. I became chemically sensitive to ammonia, peroxide with resulting sickness.
I changed my diet to vegetable-meat based and eschewed all forms of sugar, and prepared most of my food at home. In the second year, I was still consuming Canola oil in a spread, in gluten-free bread, and in foods occasionally eaten outside home. My health continued to decline: continuing episodes of inflammation and sickness, sickness to corn, worsening pain in neck, flutters, pounding and clicks in one ear, loss of hearing in same ear, and extreme TMJ syndrome with acute pressure in temples, cranium and sinuses. Each morning I awoke feeling like I'd been in a war, swelling under my eyes, incapacitating temple, frontal, and sinus pressure, and broken sinus blood vessels.
On 12/15/12 I ate potatoes cooked in canola oil, and I was sickened and bed-ridden for 3 days. I began researching canola oil then, and decided that it is the canola oil that was destroying me from the inside out. I knew something from outside me was hurting me, because I’ve always been healthy and had a very health-conscious diet and lifestyle. Not consuming CanolaOil means the return of my health and life. The first days after ceasing canola oil, my nasal capillaries stopped breaking-bleeding. My sinus and temple pressure abated. Swelling under my eyes is almost gone. I have less jaw pressure. Now I wake up feeling tranquil and rested, not war-torn. I still have food sensitivies which I must observe or I will experience fatigue. I’ve had no further episodes of sickness and inflammation. The flutter and pounding in my ear nearly gone, I only hear some ticking now and then. It will take time to reverse the damage done to me by canola oil. In the meantime, I will spread the word.
Not eating canola means not eating out and eating almost nothing processed. Fortunately I live in Portland Oregon, where there is non-gluten, non-canola bread made locally, as well as eateries I have yet to try. Ending Canola means talking to people about its dangers, and writing food manufacturers and restaurants.
Now here is that recipe for a delicious spread:
1 stick butter, room temp (pasture-raised preferably)
4 Tbs olive oil (cold pressed)
Place the butter in a food processor. Begin to process and drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until creamy.


12/26/2012 - 4:02pm

yes canola oil is amazing much better than olive oil compared to fat and omega 6 & 3 ratio


01/02/2013 - 2:03am

I like lard. Lots of it baby! If you're going to drive off the cliff, press the pedal to the floor I say! Vroooom!


01/06/2013 - 6:57pm

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