I’ve just read a post called “When did you last eat a shirt” on WellFed.net, an enjoyable read about the inappropriateness of cotton seed oil in the human diet. In the comments section following, a discussion about canola oil included a comment from the author of the post which greatly disturbed me. She says, “There’s nothing wrong with canola oil, it’s actually quite healthy - as long as you buy organic.”
I beg to differ…
The first Big Con
Some of you may remember the unprecedented increase in Heart attack mortality from the 1930s onward. Some may remember the media freak out the mortality figures caused. Some may remember, mid 1980s, Agribusiness coming to the rescue. In collusion with the American Heart Association, government agencies and corrupt university nutrition departments, big brother Agribusiness finally convinced the American public that polyunsaturated oils were a “heart healthy” alternative to saturated fat. (No mind Heart attacks didn’t exist at the turn of the century when vegetable shortening began replacing butter in commercial baked goods.)
Some may remember questions emerging around consuming oils which had never been used in the history of humanity, oils which needed stainless steel and chemical processing to extract, concerns that soy and corn oil were causing numerous health problems including cancer.
Big brother Agribusiness and the Food Giants’ money machine was beginning to come off the rails. Convincing consumers of the value of these new fangled oils was getting difficult.
Where could they go? They certainly couldn’t go back to using old fashioned fats like coconut oil, lard, tallow and ghee, which have been used for millenia. They are just too expensive and there’s too much money to be made from mechanised agriculture. So the next best thing was to find a new miracle oil.
Studies had shown that olive oil, a traditional oil used by mediterranean and middle eastern people, was “heart healthy” because it contained monounsaturated fats. But of course, the cost and difficulties with using olive oil made it just as prohibitive as traditional fats.
Canola Oil to the Rescue!
The new wonder oil, Canola oil, was born - well not born, not even grafted but GENETICALLY ENGINEERED. Canola, or CONola as Sally Fallon and Mary Enig call it, was also high in monounsaturated fats and Omega 3 - the new darling of the Heart Association. COnola was originally engineered from Rape Seed using a seed splitting technique to create it’s mutant sister, LEAR or Low Euric Acid Rapeseed. (Euric Acid is associated with heart lesions and other ailments) Before it could be marketed LEAR had to be renamed Canola to be sellable. ‘Can’ stands for Canada where most LEAR was grown and ‘ola’ meaning oil makes the word sound suspiciously like “Cashola” to me.
While Rape seed has been used for millenia in asian cultures, it was always used in small doses and immediately after crushing. They certainly did not deep fry in it. Lard or Ghee was used for that. Nor did they genetically engineer it, use solvents to extract it (hexanes solvents are still present in the end product), deodorise it (rendering most Omega 3 rancid) and hydrogenate it (turning it into trans fats). They didn’t have to worry about the Euric Acid content - associated with fibrous legions of the heart, vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span - because they included quality saturated fats in their diet which protected them. The connection between Omega 3 fats and the protective factors of Saturated Fats has only recently been proven - late 1990s.
But how can the food industry go back?
They have spent billions of dollars bribing governments, convincing nutrition experts and conning consumers. “One informant in the publishing industry told us that since the mid 1990s, major publishers would not accept cookbooks unless they included canola in the recipes.” (see Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s essay, The Great Conola, for the dig on this.)
If Sheryl “When did you last eat a shirt” Kirby thinks cotton seed oil is every where - you’ll find it on labels cleverly disguised as ‘vegetable oil’ - she should check out CONola oil. Its even more insidious. Sold as a health food, it is commonly used in sterol-containing margarines and spreads recommended for ‘cholesterol lowering’. Biscuits and cookies are full of it. Almost all restaurants use it in hydrogenated form, and Asian countries import millions of tons of it. You can even by it “organic” in health food shops.
CONola oil may be a coup for Agribusiness but in the forms and amounts we eat it, it’s a disatster for human health. A disaster we may remember in centuries to come that brought our planet’s population to its knees.
About the Author...
Joanne Hay, Editor of Nourished Magazine, Chief Nourisher and Mother of three is very grateful to live in Byron Bay and be able to share all she has learned about Nourishment. She has trained as an Acupuncturist (unfinished), Kinesiologist (finished) and parent (never finished). She serves the Weston A Price Foundation as a chapter leader. She loves sauerkraut, kangaroo tail stew, home made ice cream, her husband Wes and her kids Isaiah, Brynn and Ronin (in no particular orderâ€¦well maybe ice cream first).