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Vegetable oils may ‘worsen memory’ and trigger onset of Alzheimer’s – the worst culprits

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Vegetable oils feature in many healthy dietary plans, but doubts have been raised over the way these oils behave when they come into contact with heat, however. Those that consist of omega-6 have been linked to the release of harmful chemicals when they come into contact with heat. Some studies suggest the worst culprit may be canola oil, as it may deplete protective proteins in the brain, setting it up for Alzheimer’s disease.

Research conducted by the Temple University Health System suggested canola oil consumption in the diet with worsened memory, worsened learning ability and weight gain in mice which model Alzheimer’s disease

The 2017 study was one of the first to point out the harmful effect of the widely consumed vegetable oil on the brain.

Domenico Praticò, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and Director of the Alzheimer’s Centre at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, led the study with his team.

The researcher noted: “Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy.

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“Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain.”

A series of examinations conducted on rodents revealed that those treated with canola oil had significantly lower levels of beneficial amyloid protein in the brain, which acts as a buffer against the more harmful soluble form of beta-amyloid.

Doctor Praticó explained: “Amyloid-beta 1-40 neutralises the actions of amyloid 1-42, which means that a decrease in 1-40, like the one observed in our study, leaves 1-42 unchecked.

“In our model, this change in ratio resulted in considerable neuronal damage, decreased neural contacts, and memory impairment.”

After 12 months of treatment with canola oil, rodents also showed signs of significant weight gain.

Science Daily summarised the findings with the following statement: “Maze tests to assess working memory, short-term memory, and learning ability uncovered additional differences.

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

The team concluded that despite its association with good health, caution may be warranted.

“Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits,” added Doctor Praticó.

The US Canola Association, however, has raised doubts over the study’s findings, suggesting they are not directly relevant to humans.

Peter J Jones, Canada research chair in functional foods and nutrition, said: “This mouse model is a huge stretch from what you see in humans.”

This thought was echoed by Kevin Folta, chair of the Horticultural Science Department at the University of Florida, who noted: “The paper does not show in any way that there is a causal link to disease in humans. Not even close.”

But canola is one of many omega-6 oils, which have been linked to the development of neurodegenerative disease.

The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinsonism states that “everybody” can develop Alzheimer’s disease in response to an accumulation of hydroxynonenal following long-term intake of certain vegetable oils.

The health platform explains: “Both deep-frying of omega-6 vegetable oil at cooking and oxidisation or incorporating PUFA by environmental risks can generate hydroxynonenal.”

However, oils consisting of monounsaturated fat, such as rapeseed and olive oil, may have higher levels of oleic acid, which could make them more heat-stable.

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