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With the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease growing fast, it’s never too late (nor too early!) to assess your risk. One of the best places to start? Your own plate. But before you stock up on the best foods for your brain, there’s one surprising item you might want to avoid—and it’s probably in your kitchen right now. Canola oil could increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
To study the cognitive effects of this vegetable-based fat, researchers at Temple University split lab mice into two groups: While the first group ate a normal diet for six months, the others had about two tablespoons of canola oil added to their diets each day. Then, the mice ran a maze to test their cognitive skills.
Based on the mice’s performance, the researchers reported a sharp reduction in the memories of the canola-eating mice compared to the first group. The canola oil group also gained more weight than their counterparts.
But the mice’s weight gain didn’t cause their bad recall skills. Turns out, canola oil consumption also lowered levels of a dementia-fighting protein called amyloid beta 1-40 in the mice’s brains, according to researchers. This protein deficiency allowed amyloid plaque to surround their brains’ neurons, which decreased and damaged the neural connections. The mice’s memories suffered, as a result. (Learn how to spot the early signs of Alzheimer’s in humans.)
In light of this, you might want to ban canola oil from your pantry. “Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy,” said Domenico Praticò, MD, a senior investigator on the study. “Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits.”
Granted, this study used mice instead of humans as subjects, so the jury’s still out on the true effect of canola oil on human brains. But it can’t hurt to swap canola with olive oil, in the meantime. Nutritionists tout—and scientific research confirms—the benefits of this heart and brain-healthy superfood. And while you’re at it, try these everyday habits that reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, too. Trust us, your noggin will thank you.