Physiopathological effects of rapeseed oil: a review

Acta Med Scand Suppl. 1975:585:5-13. doi: 10.1111/j.0954-6820.1975.tb06554.x.


Rapeseed oil has a growth retarding effect in animals. Some investigators claim that the high content of erucic acid in rapeseed oil alone causes this effect, while others consider the low ratio saturated/monounsaturated fatty acids in rapeseed oil to be a contributory factor. Normally erucic acid is not found or occurs in traces in body fat, but when the diet contains rapeseed oil erucic acid is found in depot fat, organ fat and milk fat. Erucic acid is metabolized in vivo to oleic acid. The effects of rapeseed oil on reproduction and adrenals, testes, ovaries, liver, spleen, kidneys, blood, heart and skeletal muscles have been investigated. Fatty infiltration in the heart muscle cells has been observed in the species investigated. In long-term experiments in rats erucic acid produces fibrosis of the myocardium. Erucic acid lowers the respiratory capacity of the heart mitochondria. The reduction of respiratory capacity is roughly proportional to the content of erucic acid in the diet, and diminishes on continued administration of erucic acid. The lifespan of rats is the same on corn oil, soybean oil, coconut oil, whale oil and rapeseed oil diet. Rats fed a diet with erucic acid or other docosenoic acids showed a lowered tolerance to cold stress (+4 degrees C). In Sweden erucic acid constituted 3-4% of the average intake of calories up to 1970 compared with about 0.4% at present.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiolipins / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Erucic Acids / toxicity*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Flavoproteins / metabolism
  • Growth / drug effects
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Heart Ventricles / drug effects
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Kidney Concentrating Ability / drug effects
  • Lipidoses / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Muscle / metabolism
  • Myocarditis / chemically induced*
  • Myocarditis / pathology
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Oils / toxicity*
  • Rats


  • Cardiolipins
  • Dietary Fats
  • Erucic Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Flavoproteins
  • Oils