WINNIPEG, MAN. — A review of 40 directly relevant studies found several health benefits associated with canola oil consumption, including the substantial reduction of total cholesterol and L.D.L. “bad” cholesterol levels. The Canola Council of Canada, Winnipeg, and the U.S. Canola Association, Washington, provided funding for the review, which appears in the June issue of Nutrition Reviews.

“The objective of this review was to examine the health benefits of canola oil as a dietary component itself, rather than focus on the effects of individual types of fat in the oil,” said Peter Jones, Ph.D., lead researcher and director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba, which conducted the review. “This approach results in practical advice to consumers about including canola oil in the diet.”

Twenty-nine studies examined the effects of canola oil on circulatory cholesterol levels and found the oil has the potential to help consumers meet dietary fat recommendations and may be included in a diet designed to regulate serum cholesterol levels. Five studies compared canola oil-based diets with typical Western diets and found canola oil is able to reduce total cholesterol levels by an average of 12.2%. Five studies compared canola oil-based diets with a typical Western diet and found canola oil reduced L.D.L. “bad” cholesterol levels by an average of 17%.

Canola oil has a low level of saturated fatty acids (7%) and has higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid (61%), linoleic acid (21%) and alpha-linolenic acid (11%). One study concluded monounsaturated fatty acids are capable of favorably modulating insulin sensitivity and glycemic control when substituted for saturated fatty acids.

“Canola oil can now be regarded as one of the healthiest edible vegetable oils in terms of its biological functions and its ability to improve health and aide in reducing disease-related risk factors,” Dr. Jones said. “Current research is expected to provide more complete evidence to support the health-promoting effects of canola oil when consumed at levels consistent with dietary guidelines.”