What Popular Oil Is linked to Alzheimer’s?

It was banned by the FDA more than 60 years ago…

But when you walk down the aisle of almost any grocery store today, you’ll find it lurking in the hummus, chicken salad, soups and more.

I’m talking about canola oil.

Back in 1956, canola oil was called rapeseed oil. It contained toxic levels of erucic acid that were known to cause deadly heart lesions. It was used as an industrial oil in soaps, lubricants, inks, biofuels and insecticides.

Then in the 1970s, Canada’s Big Agra modified rapeseed plants. They lowered the levels of erucic acid and rebranded the oil as canola.

They marketed it as a “healthy alternative to saturated fats.” (If you’re a regular reader, you know saturated fats are a natural part of your diet and don’t raise your risk of heart disease.)

And they pulled off one of the greatest scams in history.

Canola marketing was so successful that in 2006 the FDA did a complete 180. They allowed canola oil to be labeled with heart health claims.

The American Heart Association recommended it to heart patients. Health gurus jumped on the wagon and called it a cheap substitute for olive oil. Before long canola oil was a superstar.

Today it’s the most popular oil in the U.S. next to soybean oil.

But here’s the shocking truth… No large studies have ever proved the health benefits of canola oil. In fact, the opposite is true. This cooking oil is linked to:

  • Heart disease, stroke and hypertension1,2
  • Kidney and liver problems3
  • Stunted growth4
  • Inflammation5

And now a brand new study shows that canola oil may be harmful for your brain.

Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia fed a group of mice either their regular chow or chow with added canola oil. After six months, the canola mice had impaired working memory and injured brain synapses. And they had decreased compounds that protect the brain from the kind of plaques and tangles seen in Alzheimer’s disease.6

And get this…

The researchers repeated the experiment with olive oil.

In that study, mice that were fed extra virgin olive oil showed improved memory. They also had reduced levels of amyloid plaques and tangles.

Enjoy the Healthy Oils I Keep in my Pantry

I don’t recommend canola at all. A scary 90% of it is genetically modified. And when you heat it canola oil can produce trans-fats that raise your risk of heart attack and promote weight gain and belly fat. Instead here are four proven healthy oils to use in your kitchen:

  1. Olive Oil. Olive oil is rich in omega-3 fats. It’s known to protect your heart and reduce your cancer risk. And a study from the American Academy of Neurology found that a diet rich in omega-3s like olive oil cuts your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point at 320 degrees F. Above that its healthy compounds break down. That means you shouldn’t fry or sauté with it. It’s great as a salad dressing or dip. Some people even take raw olive oil by the tablespoon each day.7

  2. Coconut Oil. This healthy saturated fat also has a unique kind of fat called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCT. One study of 20 people with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment showed that in just 90 minutes MCTs improved memory.8

    Coconut oil is one of my favorite kitchen oils. It has a distinct sweet flavor. Look for cold-pressed and virgin coconut oil. It’s very stable and has a smoke point of 350 degrees F. I use it for frying, pan-searing and sautéing. I also like to add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil to my protein smoothie in the morning. Or add it to a cup of coffee or tea.

  3. Walnut Oil. This is another oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. It can help lower beta amyloid levels in the blood which are linked with Alzheimer’s disease. An American Academy of Neurology study found that foods high in vitamin E like walnuts are protective of the brain. In fact, people in the study who ate the most walnuts were 70% less likely to have Alzheimer’s.9

    Walnut oil is good for cooking on low and medium heat. But like olive oil it has a smoke point of 320 degrees F. It breaks down at high heat. Use it for salad and dipping.

  4. Grape Seed Oil. This oil is rich in powerful antioxidants called polyphenols. A study from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that polyphenols from grape seed oil blocks formation of a beta protein linked with Alzheimer’s disease.10

    Grape seed oil has a very high smoke point of 420 degrees F. You can use it safely for frying or pan-searing meats and fish. I like using it to stir-fry.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Kummerow FA The negative effects of hydrogenated trans fats and what to do about them. Atherosclerosis. 2009 Aug.
2. Naito Y, Konishi C, Ohara N.Blood coagulation and osmolar tolerance of erythrocytes in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats given rapeseed oil or soybean oil as the only dietary fat. Toxicol Lett. 2000 Aug 16.
3. Environmental Sciences Europe. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements
December 2011.
4. Lim, TK. Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants. Springer Dordrecht Heidleberg. New York. Page 95.
5. Kummerow FA The negative effects of hydrogenated trans fats and what to do about them. Atherosclerosis. 2009.
6. Elisabetta Lauretti, Domenico Pratico. “Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Scientific Reports. 2017.
7. Barberger-Gateau, P., et al. “Dietary Patterns and Risk of Dementia: The Three-City Cohort Study.” Neurology. 2007.
8. Reger, Mark A. et al. “Effects of β-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults.” Neurobiology of Aging. 2004.
9. Y. Gu, N. Schupf, S.A. Cosentino, J.A. Luchsinger, N. Scarmeas. “Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid.” Neurology. 2012.
10. Peng Liu, Lisa J. Kemper, Jun Wang, et al. “Grape Seed Polyphenolic Extract Specifically Decreases A[beta]*56 in the Brains of Tg2576 Mice.” J Alzheimers Dis. 2011.