Vegetable oils lacking omega-3s not as heart-healthy

Vegetable oils lacking omega-3s not as heart-healthy

The recent push to use heart-healthy vegetable oils in cooking might not be completely warranted, according to new research from the University of Toronto. Before you pour that oil into the frying pan, it's a good idea to consider the validity of label claims.

It's widely accepted that cooking oil is preferable to butter or margarine because oils contain fewer hydrogenated fats. The Cleveland Clinic explains in a list of healthy oils that canola and grapeseed are better choices for frying and baking because they contain more mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows canola and corn oil to be labeled with the claim that daily consumption can reduce risk of heart disease when accompanied by proper disclaimers. Similar labels are used in Canada, but research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal explains that these claims might not be grounded. The study showed that containing polyunsaturated fats isn't enough, but rather oil needs a proper ratio of fatty acids.

"Careful evaluation of recent evidence, however, suggests that allowing a health claim for vegetable oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but relatively poor in omega-3 α-linolenic acid may not be warranted," said Richard Bazinet, Ph.D., the lead author.

Corn and safflower oil have high levels of omega-6, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, but contain a much lower amount of omega-3. The study showed that omega-6s alone aren't associated with lower cholesterol levels and don't reduce the risk of heart disease.

The authors suggested that oils lacking in omega-3s be excluded from heart-healthy claims and the labels be removed. If you're concerned about missing out on the benefits of omega-3s, consider a daily fish oil supplement, which provides with the fatty-acids the body needs.