Why is Canola Oil Banned in Europe? Exploring Concerns

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/22/2023

Why is canola oil banned in Europe? This article will explore the puzzle of why canola oil has been prohibited in Europe, a subject that fascinates those with an interest in health and nutrition as well as followers of certain diets such as ketogenic or intermittent fasting.

In this blog post, we will delve into the various reasons behind the European Union's decision to ban canola oil.

Firstly, we will discuss erucic acid concerns in canola oil and its potential health risks. We will also explore how genetically modified canola plants have been developed to address these issues. Next, our focus shifts to trans fats and omega-3 degradation in canola oil production and their effects on human health.

Furthermore, we will examine research findings on memory function impairment related to canola oil consumption and inflammation's role in cognitive decline.

Lastly, we will analyze the environmental impact of hexane extraction methods used for producing vegetable oils like canola compared with mechanical pressing techniques.

To conclude our discussion on why is canola oil banned in Europe, healthier alternatives such as olive and coconut oils will be presented along with their nutritional advantages over traditional cooking oils like rapeseed or sunflower varieties.

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 content of erucic acid, 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.

The Link Between Erucic Acid and 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.

Development of Genetically Modified Canola Plants

Scientists have created GM canola plants with much lower erucic acid levels, resulting in the production of "low-erucic-acid rapeseed" or LEAR oil (canola oil).

These GM plants produce what is known as "low-erucic-acid rapeseed" or LEAR oil also called "canola oil" (source). 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, it's essential for consumers to be aware of their choices when selecting cooking oils. Opting for alternative sources like olive or coconut oils may provide additional health benefits without posing undue ecological burdens.

The main concern is to avoid consuming canola oil due to its potentially harmful effects on human consumption.

Trans Fats and Omega-3 Degradation in Canola Oil

Canola oil contains trace amounts of trans fats created during the refining process when heated at high temperatures. This degrades its omega-3 fatty acid content, causing inflammation and oxidative stress within our bodies, contributing towards chronic diseases such as cardiovascular issues or type 2 diabetes.

How Trans Fats are Formed in Canola Oil Production

The production of canola oil involves a series of processes that include 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 which results in the formation of 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 promote inflammation, potentially exacerbating conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Oxidative Stress: Degraded omega-3 fatty acids can also cause oxidative stress, which is a major contributor 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 cognitive benefits. This could potentially result in a heightened likelihood of neurological issues down the line.

Given the potential risks, it is prudent to opt for other sources of oil such as olive or coconut oils in order to reduce any ecological burden and avoid consuming trans fats and degraded omega-3s. Opting for alternative sources like olive or coconut oils whenever possible would offer numerous benefits without posing undue ecological burdens or exposing you to harmful trans fats and degraded omega-3s. 

European countries have banned canola oil due to its potentially harmful effects on human consumption. 

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

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, sunflower oil, and even Brussels sprouts, which are high in essential fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.

rapeseed field with power plant in background

Memory Function Impairment from Canola Oil Consumption

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 contribute to an increased risk of developing cognitive decline or other neurological disorders over time.

Research Findings on Memory Impairment Related to Canola Oil Consumption

This study found that mice fed a diet high in canola oil experienced significant impairments in their working memory, compared to those who were not exposed to the oil. The researchers observed that these negative effects were associated with changes in synaptic integrity and neuroinflammation within the hippocampus, a region of the brain 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 possibly increase the likelihood of age-related cognitive 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, which is known as a major contributing factor towards various chronic diseases including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

  • Oxidative stress: Inflammatory processes caused by unhealthy fats like those found in canola oil can lead to increased production of free radicals, which in turn cause oxidative stress within our cells. This is known to damage neuronal structures and impair cognitive function over time.

  • Neuroinflammation: Chronic inflammation has also been linked with neuroinflammation, a condition characterized by the activation of immune cells within the brain. This process can result in further damage to neurons and contribute to cognitive decline.

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 be able to 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 Extraction Methods

The production of canola oil often involves the use of 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.

Comparing Hexane Extraction with Mechanical Pressing Techniques

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

In contrast, mechanical pressing techniques involve physically squeezing oil out of seeds using pressure without any chemicals involved.

While this method may yield less oil per seed than hexane extraction, it has a significantly lower environmental impact.

Land Use Efficiency Concerns Associated with Hexane-extracted Oils

  • Agricultural Land: The cultivation of crops used for producing vegetable oils like canola requires vast areas of agricultural land. The requirement for more agricultural land, due to the rising demand for these goods, has caused deforestation and biodiversity destruction.

  • Fertilizers & Pesticides: Canola plants are heavily reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maintain high yields. These chemicals can contaminate soil, and water sources, and contribute to air pollution.

  • Water Consumption: The production of hexane-extracted oils is a water-intensive process. According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes approximately 1,700 liters of water to produce just one liter of vegetable oil using this method.

In light of these environmental concerns associated with hexane extraction methods for producing canola oil, it's essential for consumers to consider alternative options that have less impact on our planet.

Opting for oils derived from mechanical pressing techniques or choosing more sustainable sources like olive or coconut oils can help reduce the ecological burdens related to vegetable oil production.

coconut oil bottle next to two coconuts

Healthier Alternatives to Canola Oil

While not banned outright across Europe, it is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with consuming canola oil. It's best to consume oils in moderation and 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 to reduce LDL levels while boosting HDL, and is more healthy than canola oil.

Rich in monounsaturated fats, olive oil helps lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while increasing good cholesterol (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% when compared to a low-fat diet (source). Opting for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil ensures minimal processing and retains maximum nutritional value.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

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

  • Lauric Acid: Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties that help fight against harmful bacteria and viruses. Lauric acid is also known to increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood, promoting heart health.

  • Skin Health: Applying coconut oil topically can improve skin hydration and reduce symptoms of eczema due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It's a natural alternative for skin care products without added chemicals.

Incorporating olive or coconut oils into your diet can provide numerous health benefits while avoiding potential risks associated with consuming canola oil. By making informed choices about the types of fats we consume, we take steps towards better overall well-being.


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, there are healthier options such as olive oil and coconut oil that provide beneficial nutrition without the drawbacks of canola oil. It's important to consider what we put into our bodies and choose wisely when it comes to our health.

FAQs in Relation to Why is Canola Oil Banned in Europe

1. Why is Canola Oil Banned in Europe?

Canola oil is not banned in Europe, but 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 fats 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 the presence of erucic acid, which may pose health risks; trans fat formation and degraded omega-3 fatty acids affecting human health; research findings on memory impairment related to consumption; and the environmental impact of hexane extraction methods.

4. Is Canola Oil Banned in England?

No, Canola Oil is not banned in England, but it faces scrutiny due to potential negative impacts on human health (erucic acid content & trans fats) as well as the environment (hexane extraction). This leads consumers towards healthier alternatives like olive or coconut oils for cooking purposes.

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan