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A large-scale review explains the key differences.
A scientific review funded by canola oil stakeholders reveals the potential health value of canola oil compared to oils high in saturated fats.
Canola (Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. juncea) is a relative of rapeseed, bred for low levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Its oil is the third most-produced vegetable oil in the world, after palm oil and soybean oil.
Out of 270 studies found on canola, researchers deemed 40 eligible for inclusion, including studies on canola and cholesterol, heart disease, inflammation, insulin, oxidized LDL cholesterol, energy metabolism, and cancer.
Based on their findings, the researchers say considerable data supports canola oil for lowering total cholesterol, especially when canola oil is consumed in place of oils high in saturated fat or when supplementation is compared to unchanged Western diets. In 29 studies assessing circulatory cholesterol levels, a wide range of significant cholesterol reductions were observed with canola oil. It seems to have this effect on healthy subjects and those with elevated cholesterol, and reductions in LDL cholesterol are comparable.
The cholesterol benefits of canola oil can largely be attributed to the oil’s high composition of monounsaturated fats-about 61%. Odd as it may sound, this unsaturated fat profile likely has a beneficial effect on insulin, too. While research is a bit limited on canola oil consumption and glucose and insulin levels, the researchers have found that, “In general, canola oil–based diets show positive results in modulating glucose and insulin levels compared with saturated fatty acid–based diets.”
Fat profile aside, the antioxidant value in canola oil is equally provocative. Compared to oils higher in saturated fat, canola oil is high in vitamin E tocopherols, especially γ-tocopherol. Studies suggest that lower ratios of α- to γ-tocopherols are associated with lower heart disease incidence. And the presence of antioxidative vitamin E can help protect canola’s unsaturated faty acids from oxidation.