Olive Oil Good for the Brain But Canola Oil Is Not

December 8, 2017

Greek olive oil
New research is showing that canola oil may impair memory and promote onset of Alzheimer’s, while olive oil improved memory by 40%.

Canola oil (known as rapeseed oil) has been aggressively marketed as a part of the Mediterranean diet for years. Presenting itself as a cheaper alternative to olive oil as well as the go-to oil for cooking. However, in the past researchers have noted that canola oil cannot be used as a substitute for olive oil because there is lack of evidence in regards to its health benefits. Canola oil is very different from olive oil. We know that most of the benefits of olive oil come from the antioxidants it contains. Canola oil does not contain any of these protective antioxidants. And now a new study is showing that canola oil not only should not be a substitute for olive oil but it may actually be harmful.

“Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy. Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain.”

Researchers from Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University conducted a study on mice and found that those who had received extra virgin olive oil performed 40% better on memory tests and also had 60% less abnormal amyloid which is a protein that accumulates in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s, compared to the mice receiving a regular diet. They conducted a similar study but instead gave the mice canola oil. What they first noted is that the mice receiving canola oil gained weight while the mice receiving olive oil did not. The canola oil fed mice performed 40% worse on memory tests and short term memory was 50% worse as well (olive oil mice had a 40% improvement).

The researchers note that due to the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, many non-Mediterranean countries have been looking for potential (less expensive) alternative to the olive oil. Canola oil has gained increasing attention, especially in countries that lack the primary source for it: the olive tree. Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University notes: “Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy. Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain.” There is this perception that canola oil is healthy, even though there is limited evidence of canola oil’s health benefits.

The researchers report that overall their findings do not provide support to some of the current ideas suggesting that regular consumption of canola oil has health benefits

And while it is noted that these tests were done on mice the researchers report that overall their findings do not provide support to some of the current ideas suggesting that regular consumption of canola oil has health benefit: “Our data would not justify the increasing tendency of replacing olive oil with canola oil as part of a good and healthy dietary alternative in non-Mediterranean countries.”

Takeaway message: Don’t be so quick to consider canola oil as a good alternative to olive oil. Ignore all the hype, and consider that there has been this consistent message for years towards health professionals, health journalists (even culinary professionals) and consumers that canola oil is a good substitute for olive oil. It isn’t.

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