My mother recently forwarded an e-mail to me. It was labeled “Fw: Canola [industrial] oil” and had a lengthy article extolling the horrors of using canola oil. My mother asked me “Is this so? I question whether this is the whole story”. I say “good question and very good skepticism about the article”. I read through the article and many things just didn’t pass the truth test.
An internet site that looks at urban myths posted the original article blasting the use of canola oil included a well written analysis and rebuttal of the points in the article.
It got me to thinking. The author managed to distort information into an hysterical rant. It’s true that rapeseed oil, which comes from a member of the mustard family, can naturally have very high levels of a certain fatty acid called erucic acid that has toxic properties. However, natural breeding (not genetic modification) has resulted in rapeseed plants with oil very low in both erucic and glucosinolates (another substance with health concerns in animal feed). I found it interesting to read where the name canola comes from: Canadian oilseed – low acid.
So, if you find yourself the recipient of an e-mail making claims like this, what would tip you off that something isn’t right?
Here are some of the kind of statements that led me to doubt the accuracy of the article:
“Rapeseed oil is poisonous to living things and is an excellent insect repellent. I have been using it (in very diluted form, as per instructions) to kill the aphids on my roses for the last two years. It works very well; it suffocates them.” Yes. It is true to rapeseed oil can be used to kill aphids by suffocation. Olive oil, or any other oil will do the same thing.
“My sister spilled Canola oil on a piece of fabric, after 5 pre-treatings and harsh washings, the oil spot still showed. She stopped using Canola oil, wondering what it did to our insides if it could not be removed from cloth easily.” Same thing would have happened with any oil. Nothing unique about Canola oil in the way it leaves stains.
“A friend, who worked for only 9 mo. as a quality control taster at an apple-chip factory where Canola oil was used exclusively for frying, developed numerous health problems. These included loose teeth & gum disease; numb hands and feet; swollen arms and legs upon rising in the morning; extreme joint pain especially in hands, cloudy vision, constipation with stools like black marbles, hearing loss; skin tears from being bumped; lack of energy; hair loss and heart pains. It has been five years since she has worked there and still has some joint pain, gum disease, and numbness.” Always cite anecdotal stories as evidence when there aren’t scientifically conducted studies that can prove your point!
Personally, I find these kinds of e-mails that get passed around very interesting. Sometimes they are humorous to me but too often I worry that they really do end up unnecessarily scaring people with bad information.