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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Health Review: Conned by Canola?

I passed by my friend in Trader Joe's with my hubby.  He saw that she had TJ's multigrain waffles in her cart and jealously stated, "She USED to get those, I wish we still had them.  They're so nice and easy to use and make!"

My friend and my hubby instantly concluded that there must be something, who knows what it was, in its ingredient list that must have been on my list of Things That Seem Normal But Are Totally Poison.  Well, yes.  They were right.  It had soy lecithin and I'm no fan of soy.  That same friend had asked me on another day about canola oil and said she knew I wasn't a fan of it, but didn't know why.

I'm here to explain my position, based on what I have researched, on con-ola oil.  Oh.  Did I say that?  I mean canola oil.

We have to start with the history of canola oil to kind of understand its place (its rather prominent place, I might add) in our society today.  Canola oil is actually a made up word.  The edible oil industry and their homeboys had to make something up because its true source, the rapeseed plant, seemed kind of like a problem word.  Rape?  Yeah.  Not so good for marketing.  So they made up something that reminded them of "can do" and payola and as it came from Canada, they thought they might want to call it something like "Canada oil".  Well, whatever.  They got away from the whole idea of rape.  I guess the thought of rape doesn't really sell oil.  Or if it does, that's kind of even sicker.  So.

Meanwhile, back in the mid 1980's peeps (well, scientists, specifically) started seeing that the vegetable oils (corn oil) and soybean oil started bringing up crazy amounts of health problems.  They had to market something that would be the savior of the oil world.  People started writing books about "Omega Diets" and having people turn to the Mediterranean for true longevity and miraculous health.  They began researching olive oil and found that hey - it was really good for you and did not bring out those problems people had with corn oil and soybean oil.  Great.

Except one problem.  They couldn't get enough of it.  There just wasn't enough of it to go around.  Not only that, but they had to have something way cheaper.  The processed foods industry couldn't pay all that money for olive oil when they were used to doing it on the cheap with corn oil or soybean oil.  That would drive their prices up, and thus, their profits low.  But based on the research, they still needed something that mimicked the properties of olive oil.  Where to look?

In India, China and Japan for hundreds of years people had used fresh-pressed rapeseed oils.  Upon initial review, scientists saw that rapeseed contained significant levels of erucic acid.  What's wrong with erucic acid?  Well, it is a 22-carbon monounsaturated fatty acid that is directly linked to Keshan's disease - which shows up in the form of fibrotic lesions on your heart.  Yeaaaah, not so good.  I'm good without the fibrotic lesions, thanks.  Why weren't people all over India and the rest of Asia filled with fibrotic heart lesions?  It has to do with a balance of good fats (lard, butter, ghee, tallow, coconut oil, and palm oil) in their diets that ward off the negative affects.  Unfortunately, the diet gurus of today preach eating low fat and staying away from such evils as butter, lard, ghee, tallow, and the like.  Hello, heart lesions!

So the scientists came up with a clever way to get rid of that nasty stuff by genetically modifying and seed splitting it.  Ah, so clever.  I am so glad we do know better, aren't you?  I'm sure nothing bad could come of taking the DNA code and changing it.  It's probably so very smart of us!  Gosh, science is the best.  Now they fixed it right up so it was low in erucic acid and had plenty of those 18-carbon oleic acids (which they wanted).  They called it LEAR, meaning low erucic acid rapeseed.  They started selling it in 1986, but the farmers who took up with it took a huge hit and it didn't catch on.  I guess people didn't like the word rapeseed or LEAR sitting in their cupboards.

Back to the drawing board.

This is when they had to do two things.  The first was to rename it - that's when it became "canola" oil.  It was produced mostly in Canada (eh) but had a big problem.  It did not get GRAS status.  (GRAS stands for "generally recognized as safe".)  This was kind of a huge problem since the FDA couldn't give it a stamp of approval and thus, peeps wouldn't be buying it.  Argh for them!  By some just absolutely WONDERFUL miracle, it secretly got GRAS status in 1986.  I suppose it had nothing to do with the $50 million that the Canadian government put foward to the FDA to encourage this wonderful miracle.  And yes, I'm serious.

Now it's green lighted and ready to go, they just had to call up their marketing deparatment for more special tricks to let us know  why on earth we should be gobbling it up in every direction.  You can't just put out tv adverts like you're aiming for these low class monsters in between The Simpsons and Jerry Springer, no.  You've got to high-class it up.  How?  Ah yes!  Got it.  Sell high-end fancy schmancy cookbooks and promote them as all the rage (for anyone who's anyone, that is) and it will trickle down the line to the pathetic masses.  Lucky little pathetic masses!

Finally it caught on, glory and hallelujah.   At first, it was said that canola was safe.  Well, unfortunately, no long term studies had been done which is kind of a requirement in being honest about whether something is quite safe or not.  Well, what the heck, right?  For $50 million dollars I think you could have a lot of people declaring pretty much anything is pretty stinkin great/safe/miraculous, whatever you want!

So what do the few studies actually say anyway?  In 1978 in the Netherlands the Unilever corporation wanted to do some testing to see whether or not the new LEAR oil caused heart lesions in test animals (like the oil that had the high levels of erucic acid did).  The results were mixed.  Rats that were genetically bred to have heart troubles in the first place (those heart lesions) ended up having even more heart lesions.  They compared this to the rats that were in the same heart category but were fed on diets of olive oil, sunflower oil or flax oil.  The other rats that were bred with healthy heart characteristics were not affected as the others.

In 1979, they pooled several studies to test what happens when LEAR oil and other oils are taken together.  What they found out won't shock you that much - when rats got to have other heart healthy fats (like coconut oil) - they had built a protective barrier and were not prone to heart lesions.

An interesting study in 1997 showed that piglets that were given canola oil in their milk replacement solution had a Vitamin E deficiency and a low platelet count (with increased platelet size).  This was even shown although the milk replacement had adequate levels of Vitamin E present.  

Other studies showed that rats who were bred with proneness to heart disease had shortened life spans when their diet consisted of canola oil.

In some more recent studies, high consumption of monounsaturated fats was directly linked to increased rates of breast cancer.  Good thing we aren't seeing any of that around in the world today, eh?

Oh.  Yeah.

So from this side of the fence, I'm going to choose to stay away from it.  Not only is it in the top 3 of the GMO crops of the entire world, but the studies that do exist do not shine favorable lights onto it.  What will come of the long term studies?  What will we see in the future in regard to the consumption of this highly processed and refined oil? I fear that it is one of the ingredients that will take us down the road away from health and natural living although it is disguised as a healthy alternative and even a heart-healthy savior for those who are prone to heart issues (with one look at the studies, you know it's nothing but the opposite which makes me kinda irritated).

Take a good look in your cupboard and decide where you want to draw the line.  Do your research and make your own educated decision.

It genuinely one day may save your life.

Peace, love and dump the garbage in the garbage,
Ms. Daisy

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