Canola oil can be found in household kitchens everywhere, due in part to its reputation as a heart-healthy and budget-friendly option for your frying pan.
But new research out of Temple's Lewis Katz School of Medicine suggests the plant-based product may worsen the effects of Alzheimer's disease on the brain.
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The study, published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, linked canola oil with worsened memory and learning ability as well as weight gain in mice with Alzheimer's disease.
"Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy,” Dr. Domenico Praticò, a professor and director of the School of Medicine's Alzheimer's Center, said in a statement. “Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain.”
As with any study using animal testing to obtain results, the research cannot be directly applied to humans, Praticò noted to Philly Mag.
“However, the data from the study can give us some clues and inform us about some of the effects and mechanisms that could be potentially important for human health," he told the magazine.
Praticò and graduate student Elisabetta Lauretti stated in the study that no data had been available on the effect of daily canola oil consumption may have on Alzheimer's disease. And so they investigated a possible connection, dividing the mice into two groups at 6 months old, before the rodents developed signs of the disease. One group was fed a normal diet for six months, while the other was fed a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil each day.
By the end of that period, the mice fed the diet rich in canola oil had gained significant weight and developed impairments in their working memory, the researchers said.
Pratico and Lauretti used the same method for another study, published in June, that found consuming extra-virgin olive oil protected memory and learning ability from Alzheimer's disease in mice. The research also suggested that olive oil reduced the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, both of which are connected to the disease.
But the recent findings suggest that consuming canola oil regularly carries no health benefits for the brain, researchers said.
The researchers also want to know whether any negative effects of canola oil are isolated to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
“There is a chance that the consumption of canola oil could also affect the onset and course of other neurodegenerative diseases or other forms of dementia," Praticò said.