Canola oil may worsen memory, learning ability

Most significantly mice that had consumed canola oil over a period of six months suffered impairments in working memory

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.

Made of genetically modified rapeseed, a plant in the mustard family, canola oil has often been thought of as a healthier choice for cooking because it's low in saturated fat and has been shown to reduce cholesterol when compared to diets with higher saturated fat contents.

"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".

The researchers divided the mice into two groups at six months of age, before the animals developed signs of Alzheimer's disease.

For a 6 month period, one group of mice was fed the human equivalent of two teaspoons of canola oil every day and a separate group was fed a normal diet.

When the animals were assessed at a year old, the team noticed one stark difference: mice who consumed canola oil were heavier than their control counterparts.

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According to MedicalXpress, the tests also revealed that the animals had less of a protein known as amyloid beta 1-40, which offers protection from another amyloid-beta protein, 1-42, (also referred to as beta-amyloid 42) which can harm our brains. Amyloids are well-known in Alzheimer's research as the substances that form sticky clumps in the brain.

As a result, in the brains of the mice that were on the oil-rich diets, an increase in amyloid plaques was noted with the substances wrapping around neurons, decreasing the number of contacts between them and pointing to serious synapse injuries.

Study findings suggest that long-term consumption of canola oil is not beneficial to brain health.

Researchers had previously used the same mouse model in an investigation of olive oil, and found that Alzheimer mice fed a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau and experienced memory improvement. Maze tests were conducted to observe memory and learning ability.

"Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy", Pratico said. These effects model those found with Alzheimer's disease. The next step these researchers would like to take is studying the effects of consumption of canola oil over a shorter duration to find the minimum effects of exposure.

The findings suggest that long-term consumption of canola oil is not beneficial to brain health.

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