When we think of dementia, most people think of aging, brain injury or a symptom of a brain disease. Few people consider their cooking oil as a culprit in memory loss or dementia, but research suggests maybe we should look no further than our frying pan or baking sheet. That’s because the oil we use to make our food tastier or make our baked goods moist may actually be harming our brain.
New research published in the medical journal Nature says that’s exactly what we should consider. The study found that canola oil aggravated memory problems and caused weight gain during the 6-month study period. Sadly, canola oil is perhaps the most commonly-used cooking oil and is readily used in the fast food and food processing industry as well. And, even people who think they are avoiding canola usually eat it in their vegetable oil, which tends to be a blend of oils with canola making up the largest amount.
In the study, mice with Alzheimer’s experience an aggravation of memory problems when they consumed canola oil. Canola oil is high in Omega 6s, which in small amounts are fine but in the ratio in which most people consume them can lead to excessive inflammation. Nutrition experts disagree on the exact ratio that is best and perhaps that’s because there is a wide variety of people with different nutritional needs. But, overall, most nutritionists would agree that a 20:1 ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids is better than the 1:30 ratio most people consume, heavily favoring Omega 6s.
Additionally, canola is a heavily genetically modified crop. A growing body of research is linking glyphosate—one of the main pesticides used on food crops—to inflammation and other health issues. Inflammation has been linked to brain disorders and many other chronic health conditions. Few studies have actually been conducted on the brain effects of canola, and I’m unaware of any that specifically examine the difference between non-GMO canola and GMO canola, probably because almost all canola is now genetically-modified so it would be difficult to find non-GMO canola to carry out such a study. Canola may have been a healthy food to consume at one point no longer seems like a good option, particularly if you care about your brain health and memory.
Canola oil hides in many foods so you’ll want to start reading package labels. Additionally, be aware of these foods:
-Packaged, Prepared and Processed Foods—read ingredient lists on the packaged foods you buy and you’ll undoubtedly be surprised by just how many foods contain canola or rapeseed oil, which are the same.
-Salad Dressings—almost all commercially-prepared and even most restaurant salad dressings use canola or a vegetable oil with canola as the base. Considering how simple it is to put olive oil and balsamic or apple cider vinegar in a jar (in a ratio of about 2:1) and add a little salt, pepper, or sweetener to make a homemade salad dressing, is there really any reason to eat most commercial salad dressings anyway?
- Prepared Foods at the Grocery Store—Most of the deli salad and other foods at your grocery store food items almost always contain canola oil.
-Baked Goods—Both breads and pastries alike are typically made with canola oil so be sure to read the label. If there’s no ingredient list it is best to avoid the item.