T Nation

What's the Verdict on Canola Oil?


So what's the verdict on canola oil? First it's great, then it's toxic, and now I'm hearing it's okay to use. What's the deal?


IIRC canola oil has lots of omega-6 fatty acids, which aren't necessarily bad, but too much can cause excessive inflammation, and I think we get enough o6 in our diet as it is. Amirite? or is someone gonna school me.


The ratio is 2:1, so this is not so bad (18.6:9.1% LA:ALA). There is 1.3% erucic acid (22:1n9) which was present in much higher quantities in the past, and this was quite bad. Most canola comes from strains that have under 2% of this fatty acid, and the studies showing negative consequences had 20-50% of this fatty acid.

Other than good old olive oil, macadamia oil has quite a high monounsaturated content if that is what one is after.

PB Andy, you can blame it on Canada (the strains were developed here), but I am sure you aren't losing too much sleep with that Indigo-3G you scored.


This helped me decide to never eat it.


There is a section of that paper entitled Dangers Overstated.

The negative studies seem to show that in the absence of saturated fat in the diet there are problems, particularly when rats were given only canola or in people who had low saturated fat intakes and high omega6.

I don't recommend canola oil, but to say never use it in any amount is perhaps silly, I will let Loren Cordain explain the difference between quality canola and that used in processed foods:


For a more in depth deconstruction:


I certainly think the truth lies closer to Cordain's position. Personally, I cook with butter, coconut oil, cocao butter, olive, and macadamia and have never used canola.

I eat lean ground instead of extra lean and chicken legs with skin as well. Such a diet has at least as much monounsaturated fat as saturated so I don't have to worry about adding it to balance. What is lacking is omega3, both ALA and DHA/EPA, simply adding milled flax and fish oil balances this quite nicely. The flax to balance out LA by competing for elongation enzymes, and the DHA/EPA to make up for lack of it in my diet, unless I eat fish (usually salmon, I live on the West Coast) or omega3 eggs which have 125mg of DHA each (cheapo fish oil contains 120mg per capsule). The flax seed has benefits other than the omega3.

Regardless, if one is using a quality product as one of many other options and eats enough saturated and omega3 fats there is no issue. I have no quarrel with Fallon and Enig's like of eggs, meat, and raw dairy, but the arguments in that article are self contradictory in nature and beg as many questions as they answer.


I use canola if I need an oil that doesn't taste like much.

But usually I prefer olive, butter, or coconut, so go with that if I can.


The public should never have been taught to think in terms of "saturated" or "mono-unsaturated" or "poly-unsaturated". It has only increased confusion.

The healthy sources of dietary fat for humans are: animal, nut, and fruit. They should be "organic", because pollution collects in fat (or, if cow, "grass-fed"). All other sources of dietary fat must be strictly minimized.

So, when evaluating a dietary fat (or someone promoting - or demoting - a fat), just ask yourself "Is this fat from an animal, nut or fruit?" If "yes", eat that bitch. If "no", don't.


What did you find contradictory in their arguments? (I'm not offended or trying to start an argument, just genuinely curious). I personally don't use it because that article was one of the first things I read about the oil and I didn't realize how heavily processed it was. Also, the fact that the deodorizing process is present in the manufacture indicates to me that it's probably rancid by the time it hits the shelves. But like you I also use mostly butter, coconut and olive oil. I also use some red palm oil.


I am not offended. I should have perhaps used better language. I think that they are overly focused on making a villain out of conola and taking the worst cases (high trans poorly processed canola - which the processed food industry wants for its shelf life abilities as well as lack of imparting a strong flavor like olive oil) and applying it to all possible canola without considering that alternatives (and research) exist. See the first Cordain link for a brief explanation or the second one for his longer response to this and other claims they made against him.

By contradictory, I mean the presentation of evidence and conclusions drawn do not necessarily follow, so it is in a global sense of their arguments I use this word, rather than they said X and they said Y, but X means Y is false. Sorry if cannot be clearer. I really think they overextend their argument, appeal to emotion with their traditional uses tangents, etc. Their political views overstate their own research, let alone a more balanced take on the matter.

A better conclusion they could draw is that excess canola consumption, like excess consumption of anything is unwise, and should be tempered by a balanced intake, that saturated fat is not evil and even protective, and that highly or rather poorly processed canola represents a real health risk for reasons other than high monounsaturated fat content.

Thanks for taking me to task about this wording.

I agree with you about the fact that simply looking at SAT/MONO/POLY is silly, but there is somewhat of an importance of maintaining some of each. I think any one can be up to 50% of fat intake as long as the balances within each category are also kept.

For example with saturated fat, if we look at the saturated fat component of beef, butter, and coconut oil, we get these results for % of saturated fat (the first number is carbon length of fatty acid chain):

4: 0 / 6.3 / 0
6: 0 / 3.9 / 0.7
8: 0 / 2.3 / 8.7
10: 0 / 4.9 / 6.9
12: 1.8 / 5.0 / 51.6
14: 7.5 / 14.5/ 19.4
16: 50 / 42 / 9.5
18: 38 / 19.5/ 3.2

Not exactly 100% per column since there are some trace odd number carbon chains as well as 20 and up, but it shows the different types of sat fat present. Coconut oil obviously is high in medium length chains (MCTs), while butter has some significant MCT content ~25% and ~10% short chain triglycerides. Each of these chain lengths has important properties.

With monounsaturated intake, something like macadamia has a 3:1 ratio of 18C:16C chain lengths, vs around 9:1 for beef and 6:1 in chicken (they have 78%, 45%, and 40% MONO as % of total fat respectively). There was a point made in the Fallon/Enig article about the extremely high ratio of 18C MONO fat in canola (97.5% of MONO fat).

As for polyunsaturated fats, it is even more important to look at the breakdown, as we want the ratio of omega3:6 to be between 1:1 and 1:4, but that alone is not the whole story. We also want to see quite a bit of ALA (18n3) to compete for elongation enzymes with LA (18n2) to keep a balance of leukotrienes, thromboxanes, prostaglandins, and prostacyclins which are mediators of inflammation, immunity, and CNS signaling.

Further, intake of omega6 Arachidonic acid (AA) which is common in animal fat and a precursor to inflammitory eicosanoids can be countered in 3 ways:

  1. dietary omega3 displaces AA in tissues
  2. DGLA (an elongation product of GLA - an anti-inflammitory omega6 found in Biotest FA3 and borage oil) and EPA (fish oil component) compete for cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase enzymes which make the active eicosanoids
  3. DGLA and EPA derived eicosanoids counteract their AA derived counterparts

Also DHA (the other main component of fish oil) has some blocking abilities.

Since human diets tend to be poor in ALA, EPA, DHA, and GLA, supplementing with milled flax seeds, fish oil or eating fatty fish and omega3 eggs, and borage or primrose oil should go a long way to balancing Superfast's simple yet effective filter.

Here is an interesting site on lipids if this post isn't geeked out enough for you:



1.) Agreed on the omega 3; I take fish oil for that.

2.) I don't mean the science shouldn't be done and published, of course it should. It's just that how it's been presented to the public has, IMO, been confusing; not everyone should have to get into the bio-chemistry like you do (I have dabbled a bit, for my own gratification) to know what to do to be healthy. The guidelines I gave - plus omega 3 like you mentioned, because of how our society actually is - would be a big improvement for most Americans. Even many on T-Nation want to be huge and ripped, and don't know about general health.

3.) Re: "canola" oil. No human ever had any significant amount of grain, seed, or bean oil before the industrial revolution.

[OT: Peter, you are very calm and thorough. Do you know where you are on the MBTI?]


The reply after the first paragraph was more me trying to outline what is known rather than a response to your post in general. If anything it was some pent up energy from holding back from getting into a flame war in another thread.

Regarding point 2, the problem is even science is in its infancy when knowing about effects. I think genomic based differences will be found to play a large part, much like response to different macronutrient breakdowns.

Regarding point 3, actually grains in particular seem to coincide with the rise of civilization. The ability to store a years worth of food (I do use that term loosely and with derision) demanded advances in knowledge over the previous more nomadic hunter-gatherer and lifestyles and the smaller groups which characterized such peoples due to biological/environmental realities. Seed and oil production also have existed in pre industrial revolution societies. The effects of these are thought to be negative as compared to a hunter-gatherer diet. Check out this Cordain article (he is not the sole author):
Origins and evolution of the western diet: Health implications for the 21st century

It can be found on this page:

I am not trying to solely push his point of view, but him and others have published lots of great work on this topic and his coauthors on this paper include scientists involved the Glucose Load and acid-base balance research, some of the most important research on nutrition in my opinion.

The average person in Canada and the US consumes more than 50% of calories from refined grain, sugar, or vegetable fat sources, this is more serious than using 10-20g of canola a day in cooking otherwise healthy meals. Like we already agree, there are better sources, but this is nit-picking in the grand scheme of things.

Regarding grain and civilization, copy this into the youtube search page (didn't want to embed vid):
James Burke : Connections, Episode 1, "The Trigger Effect", 1 of 5 (CC)
The whole first year of the series is great even if not related. And once again, I am not claiming this is the whole truth (I doubt such a thing exists), but a good overview.

As for your earlier comment about organic fat sources, I am not so big on this, though I live in a place where animals can graze most the year so the quality of non-organic food is quite high compared to the average available in stores in both our countries. I have noticed a much larger range of quality in the US vs. Canada, and in both countries price is usually a decent indicator.

For animals, it is true that toxins are stored in fat, but for plant based products it is usually the skin or shell which has the chemicals. However, I do not really worry about this. I eat a specific organic yogurt because it has a better bacterial culture blend, not because it is organic, likewise my spinach is organic, but I buy it because it is prewashed and fresh (and I check for the best box of the batch).

I think there are many quality non-organic foods available that are just as nutritious and safe as their organic counterparts and the quality of organics varies as much as non-organic. I focus on purchasing fresh quality ingredients usually by taste not cost.

As for my calmness, that is based on environment, if you see some of my other posts, you will change your mind (or if you could see some of the stuff I have typed and chose not to post). As for the MBTI, I had to read the wikipedia page. I would say all over the map, but then when you see the Validity, Reliability, and Utility sections, it pretty much predicts this for many people. In general, I find such classification systems to be useless and more of an indication of the beliefs or perceptions of the inventor(s).


Thanks for the response Peter. Your view seems unusually balanced on this issue whereas you usually have two ends of the spectrum i.e. me- who doesn't ever eat the stuff or people who claim it's the greatest thing in the world. This dichotomy is what I think the OP was getting at with this post. Depending on who you ask there are usually dramatically different opinions.


Well, I'm glad you don't eat people! :stuck_out_tongue: