In “An Oily Urban Legend” (posted on the American Council on Science and Health‘s Website on Sunday, April 1, 2001) by Timothy N. Gorsky, M.D. (who was Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics/ Gynecology of the University of North Texas), Dr. Gorsky says:
Below are statements of some relevant facts about canola oil.
* The word “canola” is an acronym for “Canada oil low acid.” The canola plant was developed in Canada, from Brassica rapa, of the mustard genus. It is distinguished partly by very low concentrations of erucic acid—an unusual, un-palatable long-chain fatty acid— in its seed. Its development did not involve genetic engineering.
* Insects can be suffocated with any oil.
* Many members of the mustard genus (Brassica) are common foodstuffs. No mustard, incidentally, relates to the chemical warfare agent dichlorodiethyl sulfide (yellow cross, or yperite), called “mustard gas” and “sulfur mustard” because of its odorousness—its only similarity to mustards.
* Vegetable oils of many kinds are used both as foods and non-nutritionally. Lubricants, soaps, plastics, and many other products are made from edible oils. Highly unsaturated oils—such as linseed oil, from flax (Linum usitatissimum)—are used in the manufacture of varnishes and other paints. Indeed, the name for linoleum, which contains linseed oil, derives from “linseed” and “oleum” (synonymous with “oil”). And linseed (flaxseed) sells as a dietary supplement.
* There is no sound evidence whatsoever that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was, as Flynn has suggested, paid off to have canola oil categorized as GRAS.
* Erucic acid constitutes 40-50 percent of the fatty-acid content of rapeseed. It is cardiotoxic in animals that consume it as a major part of their diet. (From some studies, it appears that erucic acid may inhibit mitochondrial oxidation of fatty acids.) In 1981, rapeseed oil adulterated with aniline (a toxic derivative of benzene) was implicated in a Spanish outbreak of toxic oil syndrome; high erucic acid concentrations may have contributed to the pathologic effects observed.
* Long-standing concern over dietary erucic acid and the mechanical properties of erucic acid led to the development of HEAR (High Erucic Acid Rapeseed) and LEAR (Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed) varieties. The latter varieties became known as canola. Erucic acid constitutes less than one percent of canola oil. Compared to the fats that occur in lard and egg yolk, canola oil has proved preservative of the myocardial cells of rats.
* Unrefined rapeseed oil has been used for centuries in cooking, primarily in Asia, where often food is cooked at temperatures higher than those at which food is cooked in the West. Inhalation of smoke of any kind is likely to cause at least an ephemeral respiratory problem. But there is no sound evidence that canola oil is responsible for any health problem whatsoever.
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