In the various online diabetes communities I belong to, I have noticed a lot of participants asking questions like, "What is canola oil?" and "Is canola oil healthy for diabetics?" I decided it was time for me to address this issue on my "Reverse Diabetes Naturally" blog. This post is really long because the issue is rather complicated but I encourage you to read it to the end because it is information you really need to have.
I'd first like to get right to the bottom line because I don't want anyone to miss the most important take home message of this post: diabetics should avoid canola oil like the plague! It is truly dangerous to your health and it most likely even contributed to the rise in diabetes over the last 2 decades as it first came into use on a wide scale.
First of all, there is no such thing as a "canola plant" as I have been asked several times. Canola oil is derived from rapeseed which is a weed (a type of grass) that has also been cultivated. Wild rapeseed and early cultivars of rapeseed have extremely high levels of a toxic fatty acid (oil) called erucic acid. Wild animals avoid rapeseed and pet birds that are given bird seed containing rapeseed "mysteriously" fall ill and die. You don't want to be eating this stuff or anything derived from it.
The traditional cultures of Japan, China, Indonesia, and India used rapeseed oil in their cooking and it was noted by the medical community that they were getting legions in their hearts and cancer at a much higher frequency than in other parts of the world. This caused a erucic acid panic of sorts and prompted agriculturists to develop a strain of rapeseed through genetic selection that greatly reduced (but did not eliminate) the erucic acid. It was mostly replaced with oleic acid. Scientists love acronyms so this new strain was named LEAR which stands for "Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed." I occasionally see products labeled as containing LEAR, especially in ethnic grocery stores (in the US). I've also seen it on some "health food" labels but it is NOT healthy!
The reason these cultures used rapeseed oil is that it is dirt cheap and can be produced relatively easily on a small scale by a local peddler. In fact, it is the cheapest of all the cheap oils. I think it is very important to note here (and I will be posting more about this in the upcoming weeks so stay tuned) that those traditional peoples who also got a good amount of saturated fat in their diet were partially protected from the ill effects of rapeseed oil. However, these sources of saturated fats (which included coconut oil, palm oil, ghee, and butter) were/are also much more expensive and the poorest of the poor could not afford these and therefore had higher incidence of heart legions and cancer because they did not have enough saturated fat to protect them. Moreover, modern science, through experiments on rats, has shown that saturated fats DO indeed protect against canola and rapeseed (more in later posts).
Later on, LEAR was dubbed "canola oil" which is sort of a contraction for "Canadian oil" because most of the LEAR grown in the world at that time was in Canada - and they were trying to come up with a term that sounded more user friendly and "healthy" (it is not healthy!).
Next in the evolution of "modern rapeseed oil" (modern canola oil) was to create a GMO crop of canola - genetically modified to resist Monsanto herbicides. This was touted as wonderful because this increased the crop yield per square acre so much. More is good, right? Wrong - not when it causes severe health effects. Diabetics, and everyone else for that matter, should stay away from ALL GMO foods - ALL of them, no exceptions. We are only just beginning to learn how hazardous these GMO foods are to the human body but we know they are hazardous and they have already been shown to cause insulin resistance (aka type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes). Nothing makes me angrier than the GMO issues (well, maybe the trans fat issue is tied for first place) but I'll leave the full blown discussion of this to other posts. For now, if you have diabetes or you have the potential to develop diabetes, you should do everything you can to avoid genetically modified foods. Keep in mind that GMO is very different from old fashioned genetic selection - in GMO you are actually ADDING GENES to to DNA, usually from microrganisms/other species.
Okay, back to why I am urging all diabetics (and everyone else) to NOT use canola oil. There are many reasons for this but here are some of the top ones:
1. Canola oil has a lot of trans fat even if it is not labeled that way!! Raw unprocessed LEAR or "canola oil" has more than 10% of its content as omega 3 fatty acids (an EFA - essential fatty acid) which of course is healthy for the human body and something most of don't get enough of. This is one of the points Unilever and other companies that sell canola oil use to market it. HOWEVER, and this is a HUGE however, the omega 3 contained in canola oil is converted to trans fat during processing and trans fat is one of the worst things a diabetic can eat! Omega 3 spoils very easily and therefore has a very short shelf life. Big food manufacturing companies can stand this as it cuts into their big profits. Plus, spoilage means offensive odor. So what do they do? They put the raw canola oil through a "deodorization" process where they heat the oil to incredibly high temps to convert the omega-3 to trans fat which doesn't spoil - of course it doesn't, it has no life left in it! I am currently investigating HOW they get away with not labeling canola oil as containing trans fat and I will report back when I have more information. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the question, "Does canola oil contain trans fat?" be answered as "no" but this is just not true at all! In fact, a University of Florida research study showed that canola oil had 4.6% trans fat (very high) - and it was NOT labeled as such. And... why does this matter so much? Trans fat causes diabetes and perpetuates diabetes! You need to eliminate it 100% from your diet.
2. Even though many stores and products claim that they use the form of canola that is non-GMO - Whole Foods in their hot foods bar and Trader Joe's in their private label products like blue corn chips (they both state they use no GMO crops) - they do not seem to understand yet that non-GMO canola planted in the field is highly contaminated with GMO canola. In fact, even wild rapeseed grass (including the wild rapeseed growing in refuges and on roadsides) is so contaminated with GMO that it has been shown that as much as 80% is actually GMO!! Rapeseed is pollinated by the wind and the GMO version spreads like wildfire - literally! This is a staggering statistic that has severe potential human health consequences as well as conservation consequences to wildlife. I find it absolutely mind boggling that the government isn't doing anything about this (more about this later too). It is interesting that no food in the US can be labeled as "organic" if it contains canola oil, no matter if it is supposedly non-GMO or not! So, there is no such thing as "organic canola oil."
3. Well, this post is getting really long (sorry, I am quite passionate about this topic) so I'll try to keep this shorter but there have been several experiments with lab animals and livestock that show ill effects, even death, from LEAR/canola oil, GMO and non-GMO. The effect is somewhat mitigated by the addition of saturated fats as I mentioned earlier but they are still far greater than those that are given no canola oil at all. The ill effects include the clumping of blood cells, vitamin E deficiency, heart legions (with canola too, not just the original rapeseed) and significantly shortened lifespan.
So, please remember the most important take home message - diabetics (and all others) should avoid canola oil like the plague. I personally go way out of my way to not touch the stuff and I let deli counters, restaurants, stores, food companies, etc know why and I encourage you to do the same - we can make a difference when these companies realize it is going to cost them money and we are taking notice. I also encourage you to check out this reverse diabetes guide because there is so much more information you need if you are really serious about reversing your diabetes and curing it naturally like I and many other have. Information is power as they say. I try to share my knowledge on this blog but in the end it is just a personal blog and it is no where near all you need to know.