Canola oil has several health benefits, is non-toxic
The Claim: Canola Oil Is Toxic
Canola oil is a popular ingredient for cooking and baking, but some social media users are warning that it’s dangerous to consume.
“Canola oil is toxic/poisonous. Avoid it,” read a Facebook post shared on Feb. 14.
The post shows a step by step process for making canola oil.
First, the post claims that hexane, labeled “neurotoxin,” is used to wash canola oilseeds. Next, sodium hydroxide – which the post says is a “highly caustic and corrosive industrial cleaning agent” – is supposed to be used to degumme the oil.
“They use phospholipids, mucilaginous gums, free fatty acids, color pigments and fine flour particles to make it shelf stable,” reads the post, which has had over 500 fewer shares. one month. Next, bleach is used to “brighten the cloudy color of the treated oil” and steam injection is “applied to remove the bitter odor,” according to the post.
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Similar messages have also circulated on Instagram, but the claim is false.
Experts told USA TODAY that canola oil has a wide range of health benefits and the process depicted in the image is inaccurate.
USA TODAY has reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Rapeseed oil has health benefits
Canola oil is non-toxic and offers many health benefits, Ellen Liskov, a registered dietitian at Yale University, USA TODAY said.
First, canola oil contains the least saturated fat compared to other cooking oils and is high in monounsaturated fat, which lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, Liskov said. LDL cholesterol is a buildup of plaque in blood vessels that can increase the risk of heart attack, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Second, canola oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, Guy Crosby, associate professor of nutrition at Harvard University, told USA TODAY in an email. According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory substances that reduce the risk of heart failure and stroke.
Canola oil is also a good source of vitamins.
A 2013 literature review found that compared to other sources of dietary fat, canola oil increases levels of vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties that protect against free radicals, which are atoms that cause cell damage in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Angela Dansby, spokeswoman for the US Canola Association, told USA TODAY in an email that canola oil also contains vitamin K, which helps maintain normal blood flow.
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Consuming too much of any food has downsides, however, Crosby said. And canola oil can be easily oxidized, a process that occurs when healthy compounds in the oil break down due to chemical reactions, according to New Zealand’s Plant and Food Research Institute.
“(This) can be a concern if (canola oil) is used in large quantities in deep fryers,” Crosby said.
The posted process is misleading
The steps in the Facebook post that describe how canola oil is allegedly processed are misleading, Dansby said.
Canola seeds each contain about 45% oil, according to the Canola Council. After the seeds are manually pressed for oil extraction, a small amount of a chemical solvent called hexane is used to remove about 20% of the remaining oil, Dansby said.
High levels of hexane can be “neurotoxic,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But refined vegetable oils can only contain about “0.8 milligrams of residual hexane per kilogram of oil” after extraction is complete, Crosby said at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“There seems to be very little reason to be concerned about trace amounts of hexane in canola oil,” Crosby said.
Sodium hydroxide and phosphorous acid are used to remove gums and other unwanted compounds in the oil, according to Dansby. But sodium hydroxide is only highly caustic or corrosive in large doses, Dr. Christopher Holstege, a medical toxicologist at the University of Virginia, told USA TODAY.
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“If (canola oil) was highly caustic, it would burn (your skin or your body),” Holstege said. “It doesn’t burn because the sodium hydroxide isn’t there. Those chemicals can be used up initially, but then they get washed out.”
To improve the shelf life of canola oil, water and acids can be used to “remove lipids, gums, free fatty acids and fine flour particles,” according to the Canola Council of Canada. This is the opposite of what the post claims.
Nor is actual bleach used in the process. The term “bleaching” comes from the process of filtering canola oil through a natural clay to remove color pigments, Dansby said.
Steam injection, as noted in the post, is used to extract heavy crude oil for oil, according to Dansby. Steam distillation, a process in which canola oil is heated to a boiling point, is used to remove odors from canola oil through condensation.
Our opinion: False
Based on our research, we rate the claim that canola oil is toxic FALSE. Experts told USA TODAY the claim was false. Canola oil has several health benefits, including lowering bad cholesterol, improving heart health, and providing vitamins E and K. The canola oil process described in the Facebook post is also wrong and does not add toxicity to the natural oil, according to experts.
Our fact-checking sources:
- Angela Dansby, February 21, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Ellen Liskov, February 18, phone interview with USA TODAY
- Dr. Christopher Holstege, February 21, phone interview with USA TODAY
- Guy Crosby, February 21, email exchange with USA TODAY
- US Canola Association, Accessed February 22, Nutrition
- Nutrition Reviews, June 1, 2013, Evidence of the health benefits of canola oil
- Food and Drug Administration, January 6, CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21
- Food and Drug Administration, accessed February 21, Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
- Environmental Protection Agency, Accessed February 22, Canola Oil Fact Sheet (011332)
- AFP Fact Check, 20 April 2021, Canola oil, used in meat substitutes, is safe
- Mayo Clinic, Mar 19, 2021 I have read that canola oil contains toxins. Is it true?
- Harvard School of Public Health, April 13, 2015, Ask the Expert: Concerns About Canola Oil
- Canola Council of Canada, accessed February 22, What is canola oil?
- Canola Council of Canada, Accessed February 22, How canola seeds become oil and flour products
- PLOS One, December 17, 2018, Characterization of canola oil extracted by different methods using fluorescence spectroscopy
- Plant and Food Research Institute, Accessed February 23, Oxidation of Food Grade Oils
- International Journal of Biomedical Science, June 2008, Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health
- Food and Drug Administration, November 19, 2018, FDA Completes Review of Qualified Health Claim Submission for Oleic Acid and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease
- Environmental Protection Agency, accessed February 23, Hexane
- American Heart Association, accessed February 23, saturated fat
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 31, 2020, LDL and HDL Cholesterol: “Bad” and “Good” Cholesterol
- Mayo Clinic, September 18, 2019, Omega-3s in Fish: How Eating Fish Helps Your Heart
- Mayo Clinic, February 23, Trans fats are double trouble for heart health
- Mayo Clinic, November 13, 2020, Vitamin E
- Harvard School of Public Health, Accessed February 23, Vitamin K
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