The reliability of the most reliable website on the internet, Snopes.com, has once again been the subject of intense debate, and more than a little laughter too, on Twitter this week.
In a rare departure from the status quo, however, Twitter users aren’t ridiculing the website’s bad faith political fact-finding on topics like whether Joe Biden really greeted reporters by saying proudly ‘My butt’s been wiped’. (Clearly 46 was actually saying, ‘my truck’s been swiped’, in reference to the mean child of a White House staffer who had just stolen his favorite toy truck. There there, Joe: have another ice cream.)
Instead, it’s the website’s fact check on canola oil that’s been beggaring belief.
The fact-check, written in 2001, is a response to a round-robin email on canola oil that was apparently common enough twenty years ago to bother whoever it is (the Canola Oil Producers’ Association?) that prompts Snopes to write its debunking pieces.
The round-robin makes some strong claims, including that canola was responsible for the outbreak of ‘Mad Cow’ disease in the 1990s; that lab tests on animals ‘were disastrous’ (‘Rats developed fatty degeneration of heart, kidney, adrenals, and thyroid gland’); and a host of anecdotal stories about the malignant effects of canola.
Of course, Snopes being Snopes, it’s not a surprise to see the website choosing the most extreme anti-canola arguments that could be found, to serve as the basis for the claim to be debunked.
Surprisingly, though, they do acknowledge that cooking with canola oil isn’t a good idea – ‘Cooking at high temperatures with unrefined rapeseed oil now appears to be related to an increased risk of lung cancer because at high temperatures cooking oil gives off chemicals capable of causing mutations in cells’ – but they go on to say that this was a problem associated with ‘unrefined’ varieties of the oil, and that new varieties don’t suffer that problem.
They also acknowledge that the erucic acid content of unmodified canola oil was responsible for ‘heart lesions in laboratory animals’, but this has apparently been solved by genetically engineering rape to contain oleic acid instead.
So: at least some of the claims of the round-robin aren’t quite so crazy as Snopes wants them to seem.
The fact-check piece ends by noting that canola has low saturated fat and high mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fats. ‘In order words, it’s a healthy oil.’ QED – or so they’d like us to think.
In truth, though, there’s a wealth of evidence that canola, like all vegetable oils, is extremely bad for you, and this evidence is only growing as time passes.
The reason why vegetable oils (which we’ve called ‘one of the worst things you can eat) are so bad comes down in large part to the fact that they are extremely prone to oxidation, which produces free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to all of the body’s tissues and are associated with almost every disease known to man. We’ve discussed this evidence at length in our article on vegetable oils.
In that article, we wrote the following about vegetable oils in general:
‘In recent years, consumption of trans-fats and PUFAs [i.e. vegetable oils] has been linked to:
- Inflammatory damage to the gut and microbiome, including leaky gut
- The transportation of toxins into the brain
- Damage to the arteries and blood vessels
- Immune system dysfunctions and nerve degeneration
- Damage to cell structure
- Damage to genetic material and increased rates of genetic mutation
Let’s take just the first and third of these bullets – damage to the gut and microbiome, and damage to the arteries and blood vessels – and consider a couple of studies. With regard to the first, a group of researchers compared the effects of different fats on the guts of mice under stress. Half the mice were given oleic acid, the principal component of olive oil, and the rest were given linoleic acid, found in vegetable oil.
The mice fed the olive-oil derivative did not develop lesions in the lining of the stomach, whereas the mice fed linoleic acid did. [R] In a study involve fecal transplants from normal mice and overweight mice, severe negative effects were seen in mice given transplants from overweight mice that had been fed vegetable oil. [R] This is a clear sign that vegetable oil damages the microbiome, which we now know plays an extremely significant role in overall health, including emotional and cognitive health (the gut is sometimes now referred to as a ‘second brain’).
With regard to the third bullet, one study has shown that more people died due to heart disease when saturated fat was replaced with polyunsaturated fat. [R] Another study showed that replacing saturated fat with safflower oil and margarine was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and morality from coronary heart disease. [R]’
Since we wrote that article, we’ve also written an article on soybean oil, the most widely consumed oil in the US, which has been linked to serious genetic dysregulation and brain damage in mice. Seriously. If the effects on humans are even half as bad, then we could be looking at soybean oil as one of the principal causes of a whole spectrum of negative health effects across the United States and beyond.
Indeed, scientists are thinking of the negative effects of seed oils in civilizational terms. Check out the video below, with Dr Chris Knobbe, if you don’t believe me.
Our advice remains that you should avoid vegetable oils like the plague, and that means avoiding all processed food too. Choose the animal-based fats that have sustained mankind since time immemorial instead.
Sorry, Snopes: you’ve been debunked.