Does Canola Oil Up Alzheimer's Risk?

The Lempert Report: As brain health gains consumer attention, researchers are finding unexpected risks.

A new study suggested there's a link between consuming canola oil and the increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. But don’t panic just yet, as the study was conducted on mice, and to date there is no linkage to human brain health.

As we discussed in our 2018 Trend Report, there is a new focus on brain health, and we anticipate reading many more studies on the effects of foods and beverages on our brains. Here's why: More than six million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2060, that will rise to 15 million.   

The study's researchers, from Temple University in Philadelphia, conducted two studies: the first using olive oil, and the second, canola, which is found in many processed and pre-prepared foods. According to Bloomberg, they used special mice with a genetic predisposition to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and gave one group a few drops of olive oil each day. The mice given olive oil did slightly better on memory tests and, upon dissection, had fewer plaques in their brains than did those fed a standard mouse diet.

When they tried the same experiment with canola oil, they found the mice getting the extra oil did worse on memory tests, and had built up more brain plaques. The results may not be sufficient to make anyone give up canola oil, but they do make an important point: Food affects the brain.

Probably the man most responsible for leading us into the arena of brain health is Joseph Hibbeln, a biochemist and psychiatrist who works at the National Institutes of Health. Hibbeln says that the brain makes up 2% of the body by weight, and uses up to 25% of its energy. His research has focused on a potential positive influence of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in seafood and some plants. He’s led studies that suggest a connection between low intake of omega-3s and a host of ills, such as suicideviolence and obesity


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