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In 2012, Health Canada agreed to let manufacturers of cooking oils containing either omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids claim on their product labels that these oils help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. (iStock)

A pair of Canadian scientists are challenging the fact that manufacturers of some cooking oils are entitled to make health claims about the products.

They argue that new evidence suggests oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids but contain little or no omega-3 fatty acids should not be labelled as beneficial to heart health.

The specific types of oils are corn, safflower and sunflower.

The scientists say the available evidence suggests these oils do not carry the same heart health benefits as canola, soybean and olive oils.

2012 labelling decision

Richard Bazinet of the University of Toronto's department of nutritional sciences says Health Canada should reverse its decision to let manufacturers of omega-6 rich oils label their products with health claims.

In 2012 the department agreed to let manufacturers of cooking oils containing either omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids claim on their product labels that these oils help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

In an analysis published in this week's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Bazinet and cardiologist Dr. Michael Chu laid out evidence from previously published and unpublished studies.

Bazinet says the newest studies suggest that not only are omega-6 oils not beneficial to heart health, their consumption may actually trigger a slightly increased risk of heart disease.

Stephen Cunnane, a professor specializing in brain metabolism and aging at the University of Sherbrooke, Que., agrees with the Bazinet-Chu analysis, saying there is not good evidence that omega-6 rich oils promote heart health.

Bazinet says the oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids make up a small proportion of Canadian consumption. They constitute only about five per cent of dietary intake of oils in this country.

Canola oil and soybean oil comprise about 55 per cent and 25 per cent respectively of Canadian oil consumption.