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Study: Canola Oil Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 12:01 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Breast Cancer, Omega-3, Women's Health, Heart Healthy, Diet & Nutrition, Healthy Living, Canola Oil, Corn Oil

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IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons/ breast cancer ad/ author: Laurie Maitland

Women whose mothers consumed canola oil during pregnancy and breast-feeding may be less likely to develop breast cancer later in life than those whose mothers consumed corn oil, a new study suggests.

A study involving mice suggests pregnant women may be better off opting for canola oil over most types of vegetable oil.

Canola oil has more omega-3 fatty acids and less omega-6 than that of widely used cooking oils.

“We found that canola oil in the maternal diet during pregnancy and nursing reduced the risk of breast cancer in babies up to five months after birth,” researcher W. Elaine Hardman, PhD, of Marshall University School of Medicine, tells WebMD.

Canola Oil vs. Corn Oil

“Corn oil contains almost no omega-3s and 50 percent omega-6, while canola oil has 20 percent omega-6 and 10 percent omega-3,” says Hardman. “Flaxseed oil is 50 percent omega-3, but it’s not usually used for cooking. Canola oil is the best cooking oil in terms of omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.”

In the study, the mothers of mice genetically engineered to develop breast cancer were fed diets containing either 10 percent canola oil or ten percent corn oil for several weeks prior to breeding up until the time their babies were weaned.

After weaning, the babies were fed a corn-oil rich diet.

Throughout the study, the female mice born to the mothers fed corn oil had more breast cancer and larger tumors than the mice born to mothers who followed a canola-oil diet. Tumors were also detected in more mammary glands.

The findings fall short of proving that women can protect their unborn daughters from breast cancer or increase their daughters’ risk based on their choice of cooking oil, Margie McCullough, ScD, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society, tells WebMD.

“While the findings are intriguing, many important questions remain unanswered,” she says.

If more studies confirm the findings in humans, health officials may advise pregnant and lactating women substitute corn oil with canola oil.

“The differences are big - is it gestation or lactating,” said Dr. Alan Astrow, director of the division of hematology and medical oncology at Maimonides Medical Center. “Before making a blanket recommendation that has an impact on the entire population, you have to have a solid foundation and we are not quite there yet.”

Yet, still, some researchers believe that pregnant and lactating women have nothing to lose by making the switch to canola oil.

The National Cancer Institute estimates 184,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2008, of them, 41,000 women will die of the disease.

The study findings were presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual conference. #


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