Canola oil – one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils in the world – may be harmful for the brain, according to a study which found that it can worsen memory and learning ability.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, also linked the consumption of canola oil to weight gain in mice.

“Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy,” said Domenico Pratico, professor at Temple University in the US.

“Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain,” said Pratico.

Curious about how canola oil affects brain function, researchers focused their work on memory impairment and the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model.

Amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which is responsible for the formation of tau neurofibrillary tangles, contribute to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration and memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.

The animal model was designed to recapitulate Alzheimer’s in humans, progressing from an asymptomatic phase in early life to full-blown disease in aged animals.