Is Canola Oil the Best?
A recent Science Daily headline read, “Canola oil may be an oil of choice for people with type 2 diabetes.”
Strictly speaking, this is what a recent study of canola oil showed, although their title was a little less canola-supporting, namely, “Effect of Lowering the Glycemic Load With Canola Oil on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
What these researchers did was to put people with type 2 diabetes on a diet that was rich in whole grains or a low-glycemic-load diet supplemented with canola oil.
They provided the first group with 7.5 slices of whole-wheat bread per day and counseled them to “avoid white-flour products and replace them with whole-wheat breakfast cereals, study breads, brown rice, and so forth.”
They provided the test group with 4.5 slices of whole wheat bread enriched with canola oil and counseled them to emphasize “low-GI [glycemic index] foods, including legumes, barley, pasta, parboiled rice, and temperate-climate fruit.” Both diets lasted 2 months.
The canola diet “modestly” lowered hemoglobin A1c, and lowered it more than the high-fiber diet, especially in people with high blood pressure.
But what, exactly, does this study show?
It suggests it’s better to eat more fat and less bread. But it doesn’t say anything about the relative values of canola oil versus other fats. They didn’t compare canola oil vs olive oil or butter. Yet this is what the popular press seems to be saying.
The Science Daily does say canola oil “may be an oil of choice” for people with type 2 diabetes. But how many people will notice that subtle word choice? Most of them will remember “canola is the oil of choice.”
Other science news sites are even less subtle. One says, “Canola oil may be best for type 2 diabetics,” and a subhead in the article says, “Canola oil should be a top choice for people with type 2 diabetes.” Again, these titles are not wrong, they include “may be” and “a choice,” not “the choice.” But how many readers will remember that?
It’s worth pointing out that this study was done in Canada, which grows the canola, and selling more canola oil would benefit the Canadian economy. The study was supported by the Canola Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Loblaw Companies, Canada.
The lead researcher was David Jenkins, who developed the concept of the GI, and he has also received funding from the Canola Council of Canada.
One can’t really blame Science Daily and other science news sites for their headlines. Most of them simply print press releases, including titles, from the institutions that do the research, and the PR people at the institutions spin the stories to put the best possible light on their institutions and researchers.
Yes, in a perfect world, these sites would do some digging or at least rewrite the headlines to reflect the actual research. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and they’d probably argue that if they did that, they couldn’t tip us off to as much interesting research at all.
But the moral of this story is to dig yourself if a story interests you. Science Daily at least almost always provides links to the journals that published the research. You can’t always read the full text of the articles without paying, but at least you have access to the Abstracts for free.
These science sites are indeed a great resource for letting us know when some interesting research has been published. But we have to make up our own minds about whether or not this research is really as wonderful as the PR people at the various institutions tell us it is.
It’s difficult when we have to not only manage our diabetes 24/7 but also critically scrutinize the information we’re given. But we’re strong. We can do it!