...nor is it Real Food at all. Controversy seems to surround this popular commercial "food," which is touted by the industry as a healthy, unsaturated oil. [An oxymoron, of course.] Questions about canola abound: is it healthy, is it not healthy, is it GMO, is it not GMO... I shake my head in frustration whenever I see canola oil being marketed as "non-GMO," as if such an animal exists.
Canola Oil history brief: No, canola oil does not come from the canola plant. Canola is an acronym that stands for Canadian Oil, Low Acid. Canola's origins are a story of food politics and profit cravings. Looking for a cheap, ubiquitous oil to replace industry-vilified butter, unpopular corn and soy oil, and expensive olive oil, food industry scientists in the 1970s began playing with the rapeseed plant, whose naturally high erucic acid content posed too much concern (erucic acid is associated with heart lesions). Laboratory design and technological machinations gave birth to canola, originally named LEAR (low erucic-acid rapeseed) oil.
Defenders of canola's manipulated beginnings say that the rapeseed plant wasn't originally spliced with genetic material from other species, nor was it injected with Roundup, etc, so it isn't really genetically modified in the dangerous sense. They make it sound as if the rape plant is being bred as naturally and easily as a terrier might breed with a poodle. That simply is not so...even a perusal of original scientific documentation reveals the level of technological manipulation involved to achieve the product we know as canola oil. The truth remains that the rapeseed plant was manipulated, including seed splicing, the plant was tinkered with until it produced a desired effect, and an unnaturally occurring product emerged. Canola oil would not exist outside the work of "science." And today, canola oil is being aggressively genetically modified, with who knows what being added to its genetic code. Eighty percent of canola being grown is GMO. Science strikes again.
And that is the key issue here. Food does not come from a food science or biotechnology lab (or any lab, for that matter). Food grows out of the ground and in the ocean and comes from animals who eat what grows out of the ground and in the ocean. Science doesn't create food, God did. When science has to jump through hoops and apply its technology to create something edible (and profitable), the result is not food. Just because you can chew it and swallow it, just because it tastes good and you keep breathing, doesn't make it food and it certainly doesn't make it nourishing.
As with all "vegetable" oils, canola is highly subject to rancidity, causing free radical formation in our bodies. Like other "vegetable" oils, canola needs to be chemically extracted (petroleum in your food, anyone?). Like other "vegetable" oils, canola lacks saturated fat, the essential nutrient that is the basis of human hormone, brain and heart health. Like other "vegetable" oils, canola lacks a healthy balance of omega fatty acids, providing too much omega 6 (which can cause inflammation). Shall I go on? I'm sure you get the idea... Canola isn't the only health villain in the bunch; vegetable oils as a group should be avoided. Their marketing as "healthy" foods does not stand on honest, evidence-based science. This snake oil is the work of the food industry, its partner the medical industry, and clever advertising.
Vegetable oils as a concept is somewhat ludicrous. What vegetable or grain naturally produces oil? When you pick up a vegetable and squeeze it, does oil emerge? Not the way an olive does, or a nut...and certainly not like the fat from animals. If we didn't have food science laboratories, we wouldn't have vegetable oils...and society would be better off for it. In fact, if we didn't have food science laboratories, we'd all be healthier...we'd be forced to eat Real Food.
Canola Oil: The Hidden History (the mustard gas/toxicity claims are a point of controversy, but the history is verifiable)
Know Your Fats: The Great Con-ola (Fallon's original article, same as above)
Methods of Breeding for Oil Quality in Rape (seed) (original scientific abstract)
Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oils