Differences of Canola and Olive Oil Examined at 'Olearum' Congress

Olearum, a nonprofit association, celebrates its 9th annual congress in Jaén, Spain. Members, residents of Jaén and even a few international attendees showed to attend workshops and learn the benefits of olive oil over canola.

Apr. 16, 2016
By Alexis Kerner

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In the 1970s, lit­tle Paco Lorenzo Tapia ran through his grandfather´s olive oil mill in Monda, Malaga and ate fresh baked bread from the family´s bak­ery. Although he was not aware of it then, his child­hood would later play a major part in his life and the preser­va­tion of olive oil cul­ture.

Paco went on to become a doc­tor, tak­ing spe­cial inter­est in the impact that nutri­tion and the Mediterranean diet has on our health. However, what has made Lorenzo Tapia unique is his deep appre­ci­a­tion for the his­tory and the cul­tural her­itage that sur­rounds the Mediterranean diet and olive oil.

He told Olive Oil Times that it was this zest that led him to pub­lish a book called Museos del Aceite en España (Oil Museums in Spain). After research­ing and trav­el­ing to emblem­atic sites around Spain, he real­ized the impor­tance of pre­serv­ing and pro­mot­ing them, as well as, con­nect­ing the peo­ple that had them in their pos­ses­sion. With this idea in mind, in 2007 he founded Olearum as a non­profit asso­ci­a­tion that brings pro­duc­ers, millers, spe­cial­ists, and olive oil pro­fes­sion­als together to defend and raise aware­ness about olive oil and its his­tory.

Olearum now has over 30 mem­bers who have all demon­strated spe­cial ded­i­ca­tion to olive oil and work towards a com­mon pur­pose. The association´s goals are to con­serve and keep inven­tory of the her­itage sites; pro­mote olive oil cul­ture and its prod­ucts; defend qual­ity olive oil; estab­lish inter­na­tional and national col­lab­o­ra­tion; coop­er­ate with schools, gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions, and the press to edu­cate the pub­lic; and rec­og­nize indi­vid­u­als or groups ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing Olearum´s objec­tives.

To achieve these tar­gets, Olearum orga­nizes dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties for mem­bers, as well as, the young and old. Participants can enjoy gas­tron­omy events, oleo-tourism, olive oil fairs, coun­try­side out­ings, and much more.

This past week, Olearum held their 9th Annual Congress. Every year it takes place in a dif­fer­ent loca­tion. In 2020, the group plans to go to Japan with mem­ber Tomiko Tanaka, how­ever, this year mem­bers gath­ered closer to home in Jaen, Spain.

The event included work­shops on arte­sian olive oil mak­ing, an art show, doc­u­men­taries on olive groves, as well as many inter­est­ing speak­ers.

One such speaker was Jose Juan Gaforio Martinez who is the Director of the Center for Advanced Studies on Olive Groves and Olive Oil at the University of Jaén. People came as far as London to come hear him speak on the health effects of canola (rape­seed oil) and olive oil.

He began by telling the audi­ence about a Peruvian man who said he was told he should never fry with olive oil because it can cause can­cer. He was also con­fronted by a famous chef that declared he only uses coconut oil because of its high smoke point. Many atten­dees rec­og­nized these points that are often made around the globe.

The truth, Gaforio explained, really does not mat­ter. It is the per­cep­tion that con­sumers have around the world and the sto­ries that they believe to be true. It is up to olive oil pro­fes­sion­als to help edu­cate con­sumers so that they can make healthy choices based on sci­en­tific evi­dence and years of stud­ies.

The canola indus­try presents var­i­ous mar­ket­ing points. It com­pares their oil to olive oil and claims that canola has less sat­u­rated fat, is richer in omega 3, and has a higher smoke point for fry­ing.

Gaforio made a strong case for extra vir­gin olive oil. He stated that olive oil does not have sig­nif­i­cantly higher lev­els of sat­u­rated fat than canola.

He went on to say that although, canola oil has higher amounts of both omega 3 and omega 6, which are polyun­sat­u­rated fats that do not remain sta­ble under heat. The con­sump­tion of too much omega 6 can also lead to inflam­ma­tion in the body. On the other hand, olive oil is lower in omega 3 and 6. It con­tains higher lev­els of oleic acid, which is an omega 9‑monounsaturated fat that does not degrade quickly when heated. Oils that are high in omega 3 and 6, Gaforio explained, are best con­sumed raw.

Contrary to the rumor that olive oil has a low smoke point it can take the heat. Not only because of its con­tent in heat resis­tant omega 9 (oleic acid) but because extra vir­gin and vir­gin olive oils con­tain antiox­i­dants (phe­nols) that help pro­tect the oil from oxi­diz­ing when the tem­per­a­ture rises. Extra vir­gin olive oil´s smoke point can get up to 400ºF (205ºC) com­pared to canola at 455ºF (235ºC). Conversely, the tem­per­a­ture needed for fry­ing is around 356ºF (180ºF).

In case the atten­dees were not con­vinced on switch­ing from canola oil to vir­gin olive oil, Gaforio fin­ished his talk by show­ing strong sci­en­tific evi­dence that has demon­strated time and again the pos­i­tive health ben­e­fits of extra vir­gin olive oil.

After the event, mem­bers enjoyed lunch at a local restau­rant where some of the best olive oils of Jaén were set on the tables to enhance the tra­di­tional Jaénense cui­sine. As fresh baked bread was torn into small pieces for dip­ping, no one com­plained that there was no canola.


  • Olearum

  • Dr. Gaforio

  • European Commission

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