Canola oil study provides no evidence of ill-effect in humans: Stakeholders

NEW DELHI: After a US study that linked canola oil intake with worsened Alzheimer’s symptoms and weight gain stirred a debate in India, industry stakeholders have said that the study was conducted on mice and provides no evidence of harmful effect in humans.

The study, entitled “Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease,” by Elisabetta Lauretti and Dominico Pratico at Temple University in the US was published in the journal Scientific Reports on December 7.

Canola oil is extracted from the seed of a yellow flowering plant of the genus brassica belonging to the mustard family. It has been approved by the US FDA. The study associated the consumption of canola oil in the diet with worsened memory, worsened learning ability and weight gain in mice which model Alzheimer’s disease — the most common form of dementia.

However, the Canola Council of India (CCI), a committee of the Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), said that the paper in the journal did not show any causal link to disease in humans. “Consumers (should) disregard and pay no heed to this study, the predispositions and conclusions of which appear to be motivated by interests that compete with canola oil,” a statement from CCI said.

The Canola Council of Canada too refuted the claims of the Temple University study. “(The) mouse model is a huge stretch from what you may see in humans,” Peter Jones of University of Manitoba in Canada was quoted as saying by the council in the statement.

It also quoted Richard Bazinet, Associate Professor at University of Toronto’s Department of Nutritional Science, who, it said, had reviewed the study. “Animal models of Alzheimer’s lack predictive validity. We have a series of major phase III clinical trials with drugs in Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs ‘worked’ in the animal models but failed in humans,” Bazinet was quoted as saying.

The Temple University researchers had said that their findings suggest that long-term consumption of canola oil was not beneficial to brain health. “Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” Temple University quoted Pratico as saying in its press release.

The canola oil industry in India went into a panic mode after the study was widely reported in the media.

“Negative publicity in articles carried by various newspapers as well sites is misleading our consumers across the nation,” Jivo Wellness pvt ltd spokesperson Ravinder Pal Singh Kohli told IANS. Jivo is one of the largest importers and sellers of canola oil in India.

“Every second, we are losing revenue as customers are sending us mails that they are gonna discontinue consumption of canola oil with immediate effect. They are calling us back to cancel all our orders placed through our contact centre team. Consumers are returning bottles to retailers at most of the places,” Kohli said.

Kohli said a “scientific rebuttal is also being filed by a University-based expert to submit to the Journal that published this study.”

Import of canola oil in India in 12 months to November 2017 was 292,000 tonne compared to 377,000 tonne the year before, according to figures given by the industry body, Solvent Extractors’ Association of India.