The team used 6-month-old mouse models to test the link between the oil and its influence on Alzheimer's disease.
Canola oil is the oil derived from rapeseed. Their study showed that besides brain damage, canola oil may be also linked to weight gain.
"Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy", notes Dr. Praticò. "Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain", Domenico Pratico, professor at Temple University in the US. Amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which is responsible for the formation of tau neurofibrillary tangles, contribute to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration and memory loss in Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at Temple University's Lewis Katz School of Medicine report that a diet with consumption of canola oil were linked to worsened memory, learning ability, and weight gain in mice.
The animal model was created to recapitulate Alzheimer's in humans, progressing from an asymptomatic phase in early life to full-blown disease in aged animals. One group was given a normal diet while the other had a normal diet plus the addition of approximately two tablespoons of canola oil each day.
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Divided into two groups, the mice were fed two different diets. One of the first differences observed was in body weight - animals on the canola oil-enriched diet weighed significantly more than mice on the regular diet.
As a result, in the brains of the mice that were on the oil-rich diets, an increase in amyloid plaques was noted with the substances wrapping around neurons, decreasing the number of contacts between them and pointing to serious synapse injuries.
Maze tests were used to assess working memory, short-term memory, and learning ability that uncovered additional differences.
"Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy", Praticò said.
His team now plans to further its studies into canola oil consumption and also research whether canola oil's effect on the brain is limited to Alzheimer's disease. The next step these researchers would like to take is studying the effects of consumption of canola oil over a shorter duration to find the minimum effects of exposure.
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