Rapeseed - Health Effects

Health Effects

Rapeseed oil is one of the oldest vegetable oils, but historically was used in limited quantities due to high levels of erucic acid, which is damaging to cardiac muscle, and glucosinolates, which made it less nutritious in animal feed. Unmodified rapeseed oil can contain up to 45% erucic acid. Food-grade canola oil derived from rapeseed cultivars, also known as rapeseed 00 oil, low erucic acid rapeseed oil, LEAR oil, and rapeseed canola-equivalent oil, has been generally recognized as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Canola oil is limited by government regulation to a maximum of 2% erucic acid by weight in the USA and 5% in the EU, with special regulations for infant food. These low levels of erucic acid are not believed to cause harm in human neonates. It is the most nutritionally balanced, commonly-used cooking oil, low in saturated fat and containing both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a nutritionally preferred ratio of 2:1. It also reduces Low-density lipoprotein and overall cholesterol levels, and as a significant source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid is associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

In 1981, a deadly outbreak of disease in Spain, known as toxic oil syndrome, was caused by the consumption of rapeseed oil for industrial use that was fraudulently sold as cooking oil.

Rapeseed pollen contains known allergens. Whether rape pollen causes hay fever has not been well established, because rape is an insect-pollinated (entomophilous) crop, whereas hay fever is usually caused by wind-pollinated plants. The inhalation of oilseed rape dust may cause asthma in agricultural workers.

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