Canola oil has been long marketed in the US as a “heart healthy” oil, even in the likes of health food stores. But what exactly is Canola oil and where did it come from?
A Brief History of Canola Oil
Canola oil is manufactured from seeds of the “rape” plant. Rapeseed oil has been used since the Industrial Revolution to lubricate the engines of ships and other machinery because it is very sticky and is able to adhere to wet metal.
The demand for rapeseed oil grew during World War II when lots of ships were built in the US. This oil was difficult to obtain from suppliers in Asia and Europe, so all eyes turned to Canada – where it became a booming industry.
Traditional rapeseed oil is inedible, as two thirds of the monounsaturated fatty acids in rapeseed oil are erucic acid, which contains 22 carbons and has been associated with Keshan’s disease, which causes fibrotic heart lesions.
When the war ended, demand for rapeseed oil naturally declined — significantly. This is when the push to breed rapeseed that was suitable for human consumption began. This new breed of rapeseed was named “Canola” from combining the terms, Canadian Oil, Low Acid. This new rapeseed oil contained significantly less of the harmful erucic acid. However, today this form of rapeseed is also genetically engineered to resist Roundup. Additionally, canola crops are doused heavily with an extremely toxic herbicide.
The engineered evolution of this new rapeseed fell right along with the growth of the cooking oil industry in North America. In the late 1970’s it was becoming apparent that some of the polyunsaturated cooking oils such as corn oil and soybean oil that the industry had been promoting as a healthy alternative to traditional saturated fats actually came with major problems of their own – things like heart disease and cancer.
Faced with these discoveries, the industry had a quandary. They couldn’t exactly keep promoting the large scale usage of the polyunsaturated fats, and at the same time they also couldn’t return to recommending the traditional saturated fats such as butter, lard and palm oil without causing public uproar.
Their solution? Embrace usage of monounsaturated oils such as olive oil. As the genetically engineered, newly edible, monounsaturated Canola oil had just entered the scene, it then became a major game player, being much cheaper to produce than olive oil.
Click here for part two in this series exploring the dangers of Canola oil.