- The fifth link in Google and the first from an actual "news" source.http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041222/news_lz1f22focus.html
December 22, 2004QUESTION: I am concerned with information on the Web stating that canola oil is rape-seed oil and is not fit for human consumption even after manufacturers address the toxic substances found in the original seed oil. This information says the oil causes blindness and other ailments that could lead to severe health problems.
What are your feelings on this product? Could it be another trans-fatty acid that people should avoid? I value and would appreciate your opinion. Thanks
ANSWER: I want to state up front that the information on canola oil that you are referring to is misleading and wrong.
First, let's cover the facts. Canola oil comes from the seed of the rape plant, a member of the mustard family, a crop that is common in Canada.
The oil of common varieties of the rape plant, as well as mustard seed and other members of this family, have high concentrations of erucic (ee-ROOS-ik) acid, a substance that can have toxic effects when consumed in large amounts.
Because of the level of naturally occurring erucic acid, rapeseed oil originally was mainly used in industrial applications.
Plant breeders discovered that the level of erucic acid and other fatty acids in the oil could be changed by selective breeding. Using standard breeding techniques, they developed varieties of rapeseed in which the erucic acid was virtually eliminated. Taking its place was a high concentration of oleic acid, the monounsaturated fatty acid that is also found in olive oil and nut oils.
Given the growing body of research on the health advantages of using monounsaturated fats in a low-fat diet, the new hybrid rapeseed oil seemed a perfect product for food uses.
There was an image problem, however: Who would buy a product named rape oil or rapeseed oil? And the name low erucic acid rapeseed (LEAR) oil was thought to be too much of a mouthful.
This set the stage for the new name, canola, which stands for Canadian Oil Low Acid. The oil received GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1985, and in 1988 the name "canola" was approved for use in this country.
Canola is a healthful oil and a good source of vitamin E when minimally processed. Canola oil does not contain any trans fats unless it is processed and partially hydrogenated. Check the nutrition label.
As with all cooking oils, keep the container closed, away from heat and out of the sunlight. Shelf life with a properly sealed and stored container is approximately one year, but discard any oil that develops an off smell or taste.
Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutritional scientist based in Northern California. General-interest questions about nutrition can be mailed to: Ed Blonz, Focus on Nutrition, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191, or sent via e-mail to UTFood@blonz.com.