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FDA approves heart health claim for canola oil

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: canola oil, heart healthy oils, healthy oils

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(NewsTarget) The FDA has approved a qualified health claim on canola oil labels that states it supports heart health and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease due to its unsaturated fat content.

The heart healthy claim -- also found on oils such as phytosterols, omega-3s and olive oil -- is popular among nutraceutical companies because consumers are spending more on healthier foods. The U.S. Canola Oil Association petitioned to be able to make the claim in January in order to promote the benefits of canola oil.

"The claim may ... encourage food manufacturers and food service providers to substitute canola oil for other oils with less favorable nutritional profiles," said USCA president John Haas, who added that he expects the availability of the claim to promote consumer health by informing them of a simple, affordable and convenient strategy to reduce heart disease risk.

Studies suggest canola oil is high in healthy unsaturated fats, free of cholesterol and trans fats, and has the lowest saturated fat content of any common edible oil. Because canola oil is low in LDL (bad) cholesterol, the labels will be allowed to say:

"Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 1/2 tablespoons (19 grams) of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains (x) grams of canola oil."

"There is ample scientific evidence to demonstrate these benefits from the unsaturated fats in canola oil," Haas said. "By using it in place of other common edible oils, consumers can increase their compliance with the latest dietary recommendations."

However, insiders are worried about what the move may mean for the industry as a whole. Since the health claims promote all canola oils, some companies have wondered why they would invest in claims that increase the sales of their competitors. Also, canola oil, along with olive oil, was granted it's heart health claim by the FDA because of it's low level of unsaturated fats, and experts say this may spur industry representatives for other oils to petition for the claim because of their oils' similar properties.

Although a proponent of healthy food ingredients, consumer health advocate and "Seven Laws of Nutrition" author Mike Adams advised skepticism.

"Do not celebrate these health claims too quickly," he said. "They are the FDA's way of easing off just slightly on the broad censorship now impacting all food and supplement companies.

"The FDA does not allow food companies to tell the truth about the health benefits of natural products like healthy oils, except in rare circumstances when powerful food groups lobby the agency to approve some watered-down claim," Adams said.


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