What Does Research Tell Us About Canola Oil? Is It Safe?

Medically reviewed by Ariana Fiorita, RDN Ariana Fiorita Ariana FioritaRDN linkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years

Have you ever cooked with canola oil? Or are you planning to? Then, please go through what we have to say.

Canola oil is often marketed as one of the healthiest cooking oils out there. The oil is low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is why proponents recommend it quite often. But research has some stunning revelations. On the surface, the oil is not quite what it seems to be. In this post, we’ll take a detailed look into canola oil – top to bottom.

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Canola Oil – In Detail

To know about canola oil, we must first know about rapeseed oil. Rapeseed oil, obtained from rapeseed (a bright yellow flowering member from the Brassicaceae species), was often used for industrial purposes decades ago. The oil was quite cheap to produce and unfit for consumption. It contained erucic acid and glucosinolates, both known to cause heart disease (1).

In an attempt to make it edible, a set of Canadian scientists used selective breeding techniques to produce seeds containing less of these harmful substances. The result was canola oil (Canadian oil).

Simply put, canola oil was born out of genetic modification. As per studies published by the Defence Food Research Laboratory, India, almost 90% of the canola oil produced in the USA is genetically modified and is mainly used to produce vegetable oil (2). In fact, the oil is also used in making lipsticks.

Research is still ongoing on genetic modification, and reports suggest it may not be bad totally (3). But the current use of genetically modified foods may harm individuals – and it is better to stay away from these foods until we have sufficient clarity (4).

Just like other oils, canola oil is also processed – making it a further bad option. This video will tell you how.

Many of today’s packaged and processed foods contain canola oil. And this is what the Weston A. Price Foundation, a renowned non-profit organization (headquartered in Washington D.C.) that focuses on Nutrition Education has to say about canola oil:

The oil is removed by a combination of high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extraction. Traces of the solvent (usually hexane) remain in the oil, even after considerable refining. Like all modern vegetable oils, canola oil goes through the process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming–all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety. And because canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which easily become rancid and foul-smelling when subjected to oxygen and high temperatures, it must be deodorized. The standard deodorization process removes a large portion of the omega-3 fatty acids by turning them into trans fatty acids. Although the Canadian government lists the trans content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid oil (4). The consumer has no clue about the presence of trans fatty acids in canola oil because they are not listed on the label.


We are sure this gave you a hint of the harm canola oil can cause to you and your family. When we dug deeper, we found some shocking findings.

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How Can Canola Oil Harm You?

1. It May Hurt Your Liver And Kidneys

We saw that canola oil is genetically modified. Though the benefits of GMOs might outweigh their harms, this is not so in some cases. Rats fed GM crops suffered damage to their liver and kidneys in just under three months (5). Intake of GMO led to an increase in blood hormone levels. This indicated the kidneys and liver weren’t functioning properly.

2. It Can Damage Your Heart

Canola oil is partially hydrogenated. It can cause inflammation and lead to the accumulation of calcium in the arteries – leading to issues like coronary heart disease (6).

Canola oil contains omega-3 fats. Yes, they are great, but hold on! The heat canola oil is exposed to during processing makes the omega-3s rancid and foul-smelling. When manufacturers deodorize the oil to counter this, the healthy omega-3s are converted into the dangerous trans fats. And as we know, trans fats contribute to heart disease.

Canola oil may also elevate blood pressure levels. Stroke-prone hypertensive rats, when fed with canola oil, died sooner than rats fed with other oils (7). This constant increase in blood pressure can lead to strokes as well.

3. Canola Oil May Affect Your Brain Health

Studies show how mice fed with canola oil had lowered memory than the mice in the control group (8). A diet rich in canola oil may also aggravate memory issues over six months.

Though we need more research here, the preliminary findings are not encouraging.

4. May Retard Growth

Infants cannot break down all the components of canola oil, which makes the oil harmful to them. The unhealthy fats in the oil may retard growth in infants. Shockingly, canola oil is now being used in some brands of baby formula as well (9)!

We recommend you go through the nutrition facts before purchasing baby formula.

5. Increases Inflammation In Your Body

This has to do with the processing of the oil. We already saw how the processing (deodorizing, to be specific) of the oil could convert healthy fats into deadly trans fats that cause inflammation.

6. Can Elevate Toxicity Risk

A majority of the canola oil used in the US is genetically modified. This means your canola oil could be contaminated by toxic chemicals. Unless the packaging says ‘organic,’ ‘solvent-free,’ or ‘expeller-pressed,’ don’t pick the oil. This is a rare case, though.

GMO toxicity can lead to a host of issues – including allergic reactions, immuno-suppression, and even cancer.

The nutritional profile of canola oil should give you some better perspective.

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories1927(8068 kJ)96%
From Carbohydrate0.0(0.0 kJ)
From Fat1927(8068 kJ)
From Protein0.0(0.0 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Fat218 g335%
Saturated Fat16.1 g80%
Monounsaturated Fat138 g
Polyunsaturated Fat61.4 g
Total trans fatty acids0.9 g
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids0.1 g
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids0.8 g
Total Omega-3 fatty acids19921 mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids40646 mg
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)38.1 mg190%
Vitamin K155 mcg194%

Now you know why canola oil is a bad idea after all. But wait, does this mean its proponents are wrong?

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So, Is Canola Oil Pure Evil?

Not really. Canola oil does have some benefits. In fact, it is not the worst of veggie oils.

It has less saturated fat than other oils commonly used in the US. Low saturated fat means low cholesterol levels. Canola oil also contains higher amounts of healthy unsaturated fats.

Several studies have shown canola oil to lower total cholesterol levels and triglycerides by as much as 25% (10). But these studies are short in duration – most of them are just about four months long. Too short a time to determine anything.

Even otherwise, the negatives of canola oil far outweigh the benefits. The healthy unsaturated fats are damaged in the processing. The processing also adds other chemicals to the oil. Though canola oil is not pure evil, it is better you don’t go for it.

At least until there is more clarity on GMOs.

So, what can you do until then? Any alternatives?

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What Alternatives Do You Have?

Canola oil can be substituted by a few healthier options.

  • Olive Oil

One of the best cooking oils! Look for the cold-pressed or extra-virgin variety sold in a dark-colored glass container. Ensure it is GMO-free as well.

  • Coconut Oil

Ensure it is virgin and cold-pressed. A big NO to refined coconut oil.

  • Red Palm Oil

Made from the palm fruit instead of the palm kernel, this one is rich in vitamin E and beta-carotene (in its unrefined state).

  • Ghee Or Butter (Organic And Pasture-Raised)

These contain healthy short-chain fatty acids that can prevent disease. If you are going for butter, choose the organic grass-fed type.

We strongly recommend you don’t go for canola oil. But if you want to, ensure it is organic and non-GMO.

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The oil may contain omega-3 fats, but they are not effective. Don’t just go by marketing gimmicks. Do read the labels. Do your research – because this is about you and your family.

Tell us how this post has helped you. Just leave a comment in the box below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is canola oil gluten-free?

Yes, canola oil is gluten-free.

What is the difference between canola oil and vegetable oil?

Though canola oil is technically a vegetable oil, it comes from the rapeseed plant. Vegetable oils are extracted from different plant-based oils that are mixed.


1. “Cardiac lesions in rats fed rapeseed oils”. US National Library of Medicine.
2. “Genetically modified foods…”. US National Library of Medicine.
3. “The impact of genetic modification…”. US National Library of Medicine.
4. “Levels of trans geometrical isomers…”. Wiley Online Library.
5. “GMO corn causes liver, kidney problems…”. Reuters.
6. “The negative effects of hydrogenated…”. US National Library of Medicine.
7. “Influence of sources of dietary oils on the lifespan of…”. Springer Link.
8. “Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning…”. ScienceDaily.
9. “The scandal of infant formula”. The Weston A. Price Foundation.
10. “Comparison of the effect of canola oil and sunflower…”. US National Library of Medicine.

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Ariana is a Registered Dietitian with 17 years of experience, specializing in functional medicine and sports nutrition in the Cleveland, Ohio area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition sciences from Ohio University and went on to complete her dietetic internship at The Cleveland Clinic. She has been featured in Health Magazine, Live Science, Rally Health, YouBeauty, US...read full bio

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