The History of Canola Oil
The Canola plant, from which Canola Oil is derived, was developed in the 1970's through typical plant crossbreeding techniques (hybridization). The Mustard Rape Seed was cross bred with other plants to reduce specific compounds in the Rape Seed that were causing blindness and other disorders in cattle, pigs and sheep.
Since Rape Seed Meal, a by-product of the seed oil industry, was seen as an alternate protein bulk food source for animals (similar to soy), the industry sought to lower the plant's undesirable side effects caused by toxicity and bitter taste.
Side Effects from Rape and Canola Seed Meal as Feed in Animal Study
Rape (Brassica napus) is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a poisonous plant with toxic effects which include pulmonary emphysema, respiratory distress, anemia, loss of weight, constipation, irritability, and blindness in cattle.
Reports of Side Effects in Mammals and Humans
Dr. Axe presented a list of six side effects from various studies that clearly spell out the dangers of consuming Canola Oil, whether from an organic source or conventional GMO source.
Keep in mind here that Canola Oil, or an Olive/ Canola blend is served in all but the most conscious of restaurants.
So if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and frequent restaurants, you may want to be asking all restaurants "the oil question" and ask for alternatives (like real butter, which is not ideal if pasteurized, but better than Canola Oil).
1. Kidney and liver problems (6)
4. May retard normal growth in children, again due to the erucic acid that is difficult for infants to break down (11)
5. Contains trans fats due to processing methods that convert omega oils into trans fats (12)
6. Numerous potential GMO health side effects being brought up in current studies including immune system suppression and allergic reactions (14)
A Case of Excess
My personal opinion is that a portion of these toxic effects had to stem from the fact that neither animals, (nor well informed humans), would normally consume such large amounts of seed meal, or the oil derivative, on their own, and that this quantity of seed meal/oil eventually reached levels of toxicity in their system.
Forcing the Rape Seed Meal, and now Canola Seed Meal, into the diet of animals that would not consume that much naturally, resulted in an unnatural quantity of these plant compounds entering their system. Blindness in the animals was merely the "wake up call" pointing out the obvious - something was out of step with the natural order of life.
Adding Canola Oil to the majority of foods, oils, and margarine in our diet is, in effect, doing the same thing to humans. Toxicity comes about from the accumulation of substances which the body has difficulty processing.
How It Works
Both the Rape and Canola plants contain two compounds, an enzyme myrosinase and a glucosinolates known as sinigrin, which, when disturbed by milling the seed or an insect chewing the leaf, combine to form a cyanide compound, called allyl isothiocyanate. This cyanide compound gives the mustard plant its characteristic pungent, bitter flavor exceptionally strong in horseradish and wasabi.
To prevent damage to the plant itself, the myrosinase and glucosinolates are stored in separate compartments of the cell of the plant and come together only when physically disturbed (milled or chewed), causing them to mix. The cyanide compound irritates the skin and mucus membranes in humans (providing specific health benefits), and deters leaf eating insects from consuming the plant.
All Brassicas Contain Them
These two compounds are readily found in all members of the mustard/cabbage family of plants (brassica crucifereae family) which include maca, turnips, kohlrabi, kale, radish, cress, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, the choys, horseradish, wasabi, mustard leaf and seed, rape leaf and seed, and eventually the hybridized version of rape - Canola seed with its now infamous oil.
Hybridize to Reduce Toxic Effects of an Excess
Canola Oil was developed in an effort to lower the amount of potentially toxic compounds found in the Rape Seed Meal (when consumed in excess), so as to continue with the unnatural practice of using seed meal byproducts as a food source for animals and the oil itself for humans.
In moderate quantities, typical of the amount one might desire naturally if these plants were selected from one's own garden for a single meal, the health benefits of the brassica family of plants are well documented (and worth investigating). Look carefully into the profound health benefits of horseradish and regular radishes to gain a perspective on this issue, both of which contain these same compounds in question.
In excess, these same compounds build up (being slow to leave the system naturally) and become a burden to the system, resulting in toxic levels and eventually side effects. (This same principle holds true for all natural substances - necessitating that the human be connected with his or her own sense of intuition regarding how much is "just right" for them, and follow it closely.)
4 More Reasons to Question Canola Oil
To compound the problem with the consumption of Canola Seed Meal and Canola Oil, are four other very important factors:
1) Commercial processing of the seeds into consumer friendly versions of the oil tend to destroy the nutritional benefits (fatty acids) and convert the oil into a toxic trans-fat. Processing includes:
a) Extraction with the chemical solvent hexane (the most common extraction chemical). Cold pressing is used by the more natural processors (producing a lower yield, higher cost, and less shelf stable version).
b) Degumming and Neutralization in which solids in the oil are first allowed to settle out and the free fatty acids are stripped away from the oil with sodium hydroxide (lye), then removed as soap stock. These fatty acids which contain the prime nutritional value in the oil, also are the first to go rancid on the shelf.
c) Bleaching - which surprisingly is accomplished not with chemicals, but with simple Diatomaceous Earth, which absorbs the colors, remaining traces of lye, trace metals and sulfur compounds.
d) Deodorizing where the oil is placed in a vacuum and steam treated (up to 300ºF) to remove the leftover taste, odors and fatty acids. This also converts portions of the oil into toxic trans fats. More natural methods use activated charcoal for this purpose.
What you are left with is an oil version of white bread - totally devoid of nutritional value, yet good for long term shelf life, but toxic to the body.
2) Genetic Modifications - Canola is now one of the most genetically modified crops in the world following extensive GMO research and development over the last 15 years or more.
To make matters worse, in early 1997 Monsanto "accidentally" released 60,000 bags of GMO tainted seeds among the non-GMO seeds sold on the open market to unsuspecting farmers.
This means that even "organic", non-GMO seeds could potentially have been altered by these runaway GMO varieties and other ongoing practices which would potentially taint a field. Only expensive, ongoing rigorous testing of crops would confirm a non-GMO status of Canola Oil.
3) Commingling of Seeds from Many Sources - Since the majority of Canola seed is grown by Canadian farmers as a commodity crop, canola seed is typically commingled, and not separated by variety or other specific traits, leading to even greater likelihood of GMO contamination among the multitude of growers.
4) Seed Treatment with Fungicides and Insecticides - Canola plants are known to attract various insect predators and diseases (this is a characteristic of all deficient soils and genetically weakened plants). Nature sends her army of destroyer friends to all weakened varieties of plants so as to convert them to compost and fertilizer for more perfect plants.
Mankind's answer to this dilemma (in his ignorance) has traditionally been to treat the plants and seeds with chemicals in an effort to fight off these pesky critters and destroyer molds, rather than simply nourish the soils back to health.
According to Monsanto's own document regarding Seed Treatment in Canola: Untreated Canola seeds are vulnerable to seed and seedling diseases and flea beetles.
Potential dangers to Canola seedlings include soil-borne pathogens and fungi that consume or weaken the young seedling before or after emergence from the ground, and flea beetles that consume the plant during its early stages of development.
Foliar insecticides may still be needed if flea beetle pressure persists in the spring.
Monsanto's Canola Seed Treatments generally contain two components: a fungicide and an insecticide. The most current seed treatment product recommended and used by Monsanto for Canola seeds is Helix Xtra - a combination of three fungicides and one insecticide plus glycerine and titanium dioxide.
According to Monsanto's MSDS on Helix Xtra, combined side effects of this formula include the following (summarized):
a) Highly toxic to aquatic organisms including invertebrates and fish.
b) May cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
c) Highly toxic to bees.
Numerous fungicides and insecticides exist on the market today to help curb the loss of the Canola crop. On top of this, Round Up, or other chemical herbicides and insecticides, are routinely sprayed onto the developing plants of many fields, which then coats (and could easily find its way into the newly developing seed) - later to be turned into the very oil that you consume.
Is this the kind of influence you prefer to have building up in your body over time?
Okay, so what about organic, cold pressed "natural" Canola oil?
If you feel safe that there is no chance of GMO contamination, excessive heat, or chemicals used during seed storage, planting or processing into oil, no overspray of Round Up or insecticides from neighboring fields, and you are willing to stay within only moderate usage guided strictly by your own intuition (saying no to all of the other ways Canola is surreptitiously added to our food chain), then possibly a moderate amount will turn out to be harmless in the short term - but there seems to be cumulative effects to Canola that may not show up for 10 years.
My feeling is now (after reading the article listed below) that Canola oil of today is not worth consuming, even in small amounts. Traditional use of Rape Seed oil, the original seed from which Canola was derived, is freshly pressed on a daily basis to avoid rancidity. Clearly this is not practical for a bottled product that stays in our cupboards until used up.
I also notice an uncomfortable feeling after consuming a restaurant product that contained Canola in the recipe. Upon inquiring regarding the ingredients we found out it is common for "organic restaurants" to serve an olive oil blended with Canola.
But then, do your own research and decide for yourself, given the many unknowns, if all this is really worth the risks.
Here is another article covering the history and known effects of Rape Seed and Canola Oils written by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Authors of "Nourishing Traditions".
A more recent article by Dr. Axe is worth reading as well:
Stop Using Canola Oil Immediately! 6 Canola Oil Dangers
How to Improve Sleep, Reduce Allergies, and Balance Hormones Naturally
How to Build the Digestive Powers of the Body with Bitter Herbs & Digestive Spices