Is Canola Oil Safe for Use in Baby Formula?
Posted by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services on Dec 28th 2020
If you have ever done any online research on canola oil, you’ve no doubt come across an abundance of information, misinformation, and opinions on its use. I have been getting a lot of questions about our recent change to canola oil as a fat source in our formulas, so I wanted to set the record straight – and set your mind at ease - when it comes to using this healthy oil.
First, what exactly is canola oil?
Canola oil is an excellent source of unsaturated fats and the essential fatty acids called linolenic fatty acid and linoleic fatty acid. Essential fatty acids are called “essential” because the body cannot make them from other fats and they must come from the foods we eat. These fatty acids are important for:
- Providing anti-inflammation protection for the body(like protecting us from heart disease),
- Supporting proper development of the brain and nervous system, and
- Helping the body make other important fatty acids like DHA and ARA,and prevent fatty acid deficiencies.
We’ve chosen to use organic canola oil in a variety of Baby’s Only® formulas. But we know that the ingredient often brings questions, and sometimes concerns, especially when it comes to what we feed our little ones.
So, let’s explore some of the misinformation about this healthy oil on the internet by taking a deeper dive into these claims and the facts behind them!
Claim 1: All canola oil comes from GMO sources
False. This claim doesn’t apply to ORGANIC canola oil, which we use in our formulas. Organic canola oil cannot be derived from a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) or GE (Genetically Engineered) sources. Also, GMO and GE ingredients are not allowed by the U.S. National Organic Program. So, our organic canola oil MUST come from certified organic sources. This should come as no surprise to our Nature’s One families, who understand the importance of our company’s mission to source the cleanest, most nutritious ingredients possible.
Claim 2: Canola oil comes from rapeseed plants and, therefore, contains toxins
False! Are you ready for some science?
Older varieties of rapeseed did include harmful compounds. However, in the late 1960’s, plant scientists used traditional plant breeding methods to remove the undesirable features of rapeseed, specifically the compound called erucic acid (which has been associated with heart lesions). These traditional plant breeding methods are sometimes called crossbreeding or hybridization. Crossbreeding is a natural process used for centuries where certain plants are selected for desired characteristics and then bred to produce a new crop that displays those characteristics in greater abundance. That’s how we get tasty new varieties of apples, for example!
This is what occurred in Canada with rapeseed plants. Scientists cross-bred various members of the rapeseed plant family to replace erucic acid with oleic acid, a desirable monounsaturated fat. The result was a new crop called canola,a name derived from “Canadian Oil Low Acid”. NOTE: Genetic engineering or genetic modification (GMO), where specific genes are inserted or manipulated in the rapeseed plant. was NOT used - just natural crossbreeding techniques - to develop this new crop called canola.
It’s important to note that canola oil and rapeseed oil are not the same substance. They are different plants with different fatty acid profiles.
Claim 3: Canola oil contains glycosides and isothiocyanates, which are harmful.
Not as simple as that. Because canola oil contains some glycosides and isothiocyanates, some anti-canola websites claim these are harmful. But, what are glycosides and isothiocyanates? Here comes more science!
- A glycoside is a compound made up of a sugar molecule attached to a non-sugar molecule. Glycosides from foods are used in the intestinal tract by good bacteria to promote a healthy gut. Many glycosides exist in nature and possess important biological functions. Anti-canola sites claim canola oil glycosides depress the immune system or block various enzyme functions, but this is FALSE! Glysosides are naturally found in plant flavorings and colors and are a key part of normal human metabolism.
- Isothiocyanates are naturally occurring compounds plentiful in many popular vegetables like kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. The consumption of foods containing isothiocyanates is thought to have a role in preventing certain cancers and may also have cardiovascular benefits. Anti-canola sites claim that it's a form of cyanide. However, it has no relationship to cyanide and actually is a sulfur-containing compound with anti-cancer properties to help the body fight cancer.
Claim 4: Canola oil is not safe to give infants and young children
FALSE. Here at Nature’s One, your children’s health and safety is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of what we do. We’re proud to bring you nutrition products that you can trust to include high-quality, real-food ingredients.
Canola oil has been proven safe for little bodies, or we would not be using it in our products. Canola oil is allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in infant and toddler formulas and in numerous foods for little ones; is used as a cooking oil; and has “generally recognized as safe”(GRAS) status (meaning the FDA designates that substance added to food is considered safe after a scientific review of the characteristics of the substance and the estimated dietary intake for the population that will consume the substance).
And, while we’re on this subject...
The Internet can be a great place to find information, but always remember to check the facts with sources you can trust! If you have additional questions about the use of canola oil in our products, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to answer questions from our families.
And, if you have other ingredient questions – about Nature’s One products, or another common product – send them our way! We love using science to find the best nutrition options.