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Is Canola Oil Banned in Europe? Exploring Concerns

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 03/08/2024

Has Canola Oil Been Banned in Europe?

While canola oil has not been prohibited in Europe, it does face heavy scrutiny from the European Food Safety Authority.

Learn why the European Union is so concerned with canola oil by discovering about the effects of erucic acid in canola oil and its potential health risks. Also, explore how genetically modified canola plants have been developed to address these issues. Find out about healthier alternatives such as olive and coconut oils and their nutritional advantages over traditional cooking oils like rapeseed or sunflower varieties will be presented.

bottled rapeseed oil next to flower

Erucic Acid Concerns in Canola Oil

Some nations in the EU have deemed canola oil potentially hazardous because of its high erucic acid content, which has been connected to heart issues and insulin resistance.

Genetically modified plants with reduced erucic acid levels have been developed to address this concern.

Erucic Acid and Potential Health Risks

Erucic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found in significant amounts in rapeseed oil, from which canola oil is derived.

Research suggests that high consumption of erucic acid may lead to cardiac lipidosis, a condition characterized by fat deposits on the heart muscle, leading to decreased cardiac function.

Additionally, studies indicate that excessive intake of this fatty acid could contribute to insulin resistance, increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Genetically Modified Canola Plants

Scientists have created GM canola plants with much lower erucic acid levels, producing "low-erucic-acid rapeseed" or LEAR oil, also called "canola oil." 

Despite the benefits of GM canola varieties with lower erucic acid levels, debates about their safety and potential long-term effects on human health remain ongoing.

Rapeseed vs. canola: Rapeseed oil contains up to 50% erucic acid, while canola oil has less than 2%. This reduction is achieved through selective breeding and genetic modification.

Safety concerns: Despite the lower levels of erucic acid in canola oil, some European countries still have reservations about its safety. For example, France has banned the cultivation of GM crops due to potential environmental risks and unknown long-term health effects.

scientist in lab experimenting on genetically modified organisms

In light of these issues surrounding erucic acid content in canola oil, consumers must be aware of their choices when selecting cooking oils.

Alternative sources like olive or coconut oils may provide additional health benefits without posing undue ecological burdens.

Trans Fats and Omega-3 Degradation

Canola oil production involves various processes, including cleaning, heating, pressing, solvent extraction (using hexane), and further refining.

When canola oil is exposed to high heat during these processes, some of its unsaturated fats undergo partial hydrogenation, forming trans fats.

Trans fats, formed through partial hydrogenation during canola oil production processes, have been associated with increased LDL cholesterol levels ("bad" cholesterol) and decreased HDL cholesterol levels ("good" cholesterol), potentially increasing the risk of heart disease.

Effects of Degraded Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Human Health

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that play a crucial role in maintaining optimal health. They help reduce inflammation throughout the body and support brain function, among other benefits.

However, when canola oil's omega-3 content gets degraded due to high heat exposure during processing steps like deodorization or bleaching, it becomes less beneficial for consumption.

  • Inflammation: The degradation leads to an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes inflammation, potentially exacerbating conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Oxidative stress: Degraded omega-3 fatty acids can also cause oxidative stress, significantly contributing to the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular issues and type 2 diabetes.

  • Cognitive function: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health, but when degraded in canola oil, they may not provide the same mental benefits. This could potentially result in a heightened likelihood of neurological issues.

Given the potential risks, it is prudent to opt for other sources of oil, such as olive or coconut oil, to reduce any ecological burden and avoid consuming trans fats and degraded omega-3s.

The European Union's food safety authority has deemed canola oil safe for human consumption. Still, the main concern is the high erucic acid content in canola oil made from the canola plant, a rapeseed oil type.

The canola industry has genetically modified crops to reduce the erucic acid content, but this has raised concerns among European farmers and consumers. Other healthy oil options include avocado oil and sunflower oil.

rapeseed field with power plant in background

Memory Function Impairment Linked to Canola Oil

Recent studies have indicated that consuming large quantities of canola oil may negatively affect memory function and promote inflammation throughout our body systems.

These factors increase the risk of developing cognitive decline or other neurological disorders.

This study found that mice fed a diet high in canola oil experienced significant impairments in their working memory compared to those who didn’t consume the oil.

The researchers observed that these adverse effects were associated with changes in synaptic integrity and neuroinflammation within the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for learning and memory formation.

In addition, other studies found that higher consumption of vegetable oils like canola was linked with poorer cognitive performance among older adults. This implies that an excessive intake of these oils may increase the likelihood of age-related mental deterioration or even dementia.

Inflammation's Role in Cognitive Decline

The inflammatory properties present within canola oil are believed to be one of the primary culprits behind its potential adverse effects on cognition. 

When consumed excessively, this type of fat has been shown to trigger systemic inflammation throughout our bodies, significantly contributing to various chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

In light of these findings, it's crucial for individuals seeking optimal brain health to be mindful of their consumption habits when it comes to oils like canola. 

By opting for healthier alternatives such as olive or coconut oil, you may reduce your risk for memory impairment while reaping numerous other benefits associated with these nutrient-dense options.

rapeseed hexane extraction in factory

Environmental Impact of Hexane

Canola oil production often involves hexane extraction methods, which raises environmental concerns related to land use efficiency and water resources management.

These methods require large amounts of resources compared to alternative sources like olive or coconut oils, leading to potential ecological burdens both locally and globally.

Hexane extraction is a chemical process that uses the solvent hexane to separate oil from plant seeds. Hexane extraction is highly efficient but energy-intensive and detrimental to the environment, whereas mechanical pressing techniques are more eco-friendly due to their lack of chemical use.

coconut oil bottle next to two coconuts

Healthier Alternatives to Canola Oil

While not banned outright across Europe, it is crucial to understand the potential health risks associated with consuming canola oil.

It's best to opt for alternative sources like olive or coconut oils whenever possible, which offer numerous benefits without posing undue ecological burdens.

Nutritional Advantages of Olive Oil

Olive oil, widely consumed in the Mediterranean diet and known for its health benefits, is rich in monounsaturated fats, which help reduce LDL levels while boosting HDL.  Additionally, it contains antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols that protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that consuming extra-virgin olive oil reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 30% compared to a low-fat diet. 

Opting for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil ensures minimal processing and retains maximum nutritional value.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), easily absorbed by our bodies for quick energy production rather than stored as fat. MCTs have also been shown to increase satiety, helping with weight management.

Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties that help fight against harmful bacteria and viruses. Lauric acid also increases HDL cholesterol levels in the blood, promoting heart health.

Adding olive or coconut oil to your diet can provide numerous health benefits while avoiding the potential risks of consuming canola oil.


Europe has prohibited canola oil due to worries about its safety. The high levels of erucic acid and trans fats, as well as potential cognitive impairment and environmental impact, make it a less-than-ideal choice for cooking and consumption.

Fortunately, healthier options such as olive oil and coconut oil provide beneficial nutrition without the drawbacks of canola oil.


1. Why is Canola Oil Banned in Europe?

While canola oil is not banned in Europe, it faces scrutiny due to potential negative impacts on human health and the environment. The European Food Safety Authority has set limits on erucic acid content in canola oil, and there are concerns about trans fat formation during processing.

Additionally, hexane extraction methods raise environmental issues. As a result, many people choose healthier alternatives like olive or coconut oil.

2. Why Does Canola Oil Have a Bad Reputation?

Canola oil's bad reputation stems from potential health risks associated with erucic acid, trans fats formation during production, and omega-3 degradation.

Moreover, memory function impairment has been linked to canola consumption, and hexane extraction raises environmental concerns.

3. Why is Canola Controversial?

The controversy surrounding canola arises from various factors such as erucic acid, which may pose health risks; trans fat formation and degraded omega-3 fatty acids affecting human health; research findings on consumption-related memory impairment; and the environmental impact of hexane extraction methods.

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