The oil that cooks up Alzheimer’s

When it comes to choosing a healthy cooking oil, there’s one oil that’s easy to get confused about — canola oil.

Efforts to market canola oil as a health food have led to mixed messages that might have you wondering…

Should you embrace canola oil or avoid it?

Well, there are studies that show canola oil lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels better than olive oil. That’s why, you may hear that it’s better for your heart health. Of course, LDL levels aren’t as critical to your heart health as you’ve been led to believe. It’s really more important to have a healthy HDL/LDL ratio — something that olive oil can give you according to many studies.

You also have to consider the reasons canola oil received an unhealthy reputation in the first place…

It’s a highly processed oil that contains small doses of a toxic substance called hexane, a chemical derived from petroleum used in the oil extraction process. It’s often partially hydrogenated (and you know how bad hydrogenated oils are for your health). And if you prefer to avoid GMOs, you’ll have a hard time doing that if you’re using canola oil, since 90 percent of North American canola crops are genetically modified.

But if you still need some sound science to sway you one way or the other on canola oil, the latest research from Temple University should do the trick…

It points to a connection between canola and a devastating brain disease… Alzheimer’s.

Canola’s bad for your brain

Researchers from Temple University recently performed a study to see what impact (if any) canola has on Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was performed on mice who were bred to develop rodent version of Alzheimer’s disease. When the mice were young (before they developed any signs of Alzheimer’s), researchers split them into two groups. One group received a normal diet and the other group received a diet supplemented with canola oil.

After one year, researchers noticed some alarming things among the mice getting the canola oil:

  • They weighed significantly more.
  • They had worse short-term memory.
  • They had a harder time learning.
  • They had less of a protein (amyloid beta 1-40) that’s known to protect the brain.
  • They had more amyloid beta plaques in their brain (the calling card of Alzheimer’s).

Interestingly enough, last year, these researchers performed the same study, except with olive oil instead of canola oil. And they got opposite results. The mice fed an olive oil-supplemented diet had improved brain health after a year, including less amyloid beta plaques and better memories.

Choosing brain-boosting oils

Since this study was performed on mice, it may be a stretch at this point to say that canola oil causes or worsens Alzheimer’s disease in people. But here’s something hopefully everyone can agree on…

Olive oil is better for your brain than canola.

That may be because highly processed vegetables like canola oil contain a lot of high advanced glycation end products (AGE). AGEs cause oxidative stress and inflammation in your body, and have been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s in previous studies.

Related: AGE-forming foods make your brain old

So for now, stick to safer oils that support your brain health like:

  • Extra virgin olive oil. Studies show that olive oil protects against the beta amyloid plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease and could potentially prevent of brain cancer.
  • Coconut oil. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that can cross the blood-brain barrier protect your nerve cells and prevent the beta amyloid toxicity that causes Alzheimer’s.
  • Grape seed oil. Studies show that the antioxidants in grape seed extract can encourage the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. It can also protect the brain from neurotoxicity caused by exposure to heavy metals.

Editor’s note: The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is expected to triple by 2050. And there’s a very suspicious reason: 38.6 million Americans take a single drug every day that robs their brain of an essential nutrient required for optimal brain health. Are you one of them? Click here to find out!


  1. Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer’s — MedicalXpress. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  2. Lauretti, et al. “Effect of canola oil consumption on memory, synapse and neuropathology in the triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.” — Scientific Reports, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-17373-3
  3. The Great Olive Oil Misconception — Dr. Ornish RespondsReader’s Digest. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  4. Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil — Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  5. These Charts Show Every Genetically Modified Food People Already Eat in the U.STime. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  6. Perrone, W.B. Grant. “Observational and ecological studies of dietary advanced glycation end products in national diets and Alzheimer’s disease incidence and prevalence.” — Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2015;45(3):965-79. doi: 10.3233/JAD-140720.
  7. Yang, et al. “Effect of grape seed proanthocyanidin extracts on methylmercury-induced neurotoxicity in rats.” — Biological Trace Element Research. 2012 Jun;147(1-3):156-64. doi: 10.1007/s12011-011-9272-x.
  8. Y. Yoo, et al. “Grape seed extract enhances neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus in C57BL/6 mice.” — Phytotherapy Research. 2011 May;25(5):668-74. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3319.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and