SINGAPORE: Canola oil, which has been marketed as a healthier oil, has been found to worsen memory loss and learning ability in Alzheimer’s patients.
Canola oil may increase the build-up of plaques in the brain, which is a hallmark of the degenerative disease, according to a study published on Dec 7 in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy,” said senior study investigator Professor Domenico Pratico, director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia.
“Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain,” he said.
For the research, the experts genetically modified mice to have Alzheimer’s. The rodents were then divided into two groups at six months of age before they developed signs of Alzheimer’s. One group was fed a normal diet, while the other group’s diet was supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil daily.
After 12 months, the mice on the canola-enriched diet weighed significantly more than the mice on the regular diet. The first group also displayed memory impairments during maze tests.
Upon examining both groups’ brain tissue, the researchers found that the canola oil-treated mice had greatly reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40, a peptide which protects neurons from damage as well as increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain.
“Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” Dr Pratico said. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”
The next step is to determine if both short-term and extensive uses of the oil cause damage.
“We also want to know whether the negative effects of canola oil are specific for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr Pratico.
“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.”
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