Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC
on March 7, 2024. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

If you experience digestive problems, skin reactions, breathing difficulties, or other unusual symptoms after consuming or coming into contact with rapeseed oil, you may have a rapeseed oil allergy or intolerance. This occurs when your body identifies the oil as a harmful substance, triggering an immune response. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important to understand the symptoms and consider getting tested.

What is rapeseed oil made from?

Rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil, is extracted from the seeds of the rapeseed plant, scientifically known as Brassica napus or Brassica rapa. These plants belong to the Brassicaceae family, which also includes other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and mustard greens. The oil extraction process typically involves crushing the seeds and then pressing or using solvent extraction to obtain the oil.

How common is allergy to rapeseed oil?

Allergies to rapeseed oil are rare, with minimal reported cases of mild symptoms like facial urticaria and abdominal issues, mainly in children with atopic dermatitis. Severe reactions or hospitalisations due to rapeseed oil consumption are uncommon. Refined rapeseed oil is generally considered safe, although there may be a slight risk of cross-reactivity with other allergens like mustard. While concerns exist, serious health implications from rapeseed oil allergies are infrequent, warranting further investigation for a comprehensive understanding.

Intolerance vs. allergy: What’s the difference?

Before delving into the signs and symptoms, it’s essential to distinguish between food intolerance and food allergy. Food intolerance typically involves the body’s inability to properly digest certain foods or components, leading to gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, or other non-life-threatening symptoms. On the other hand, a food allergy triggers the immune system to produce an allergic reaction, which can range from mild itching to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening response. If you think you may have a food intolerance, our food intolerance test can help identify markers with a simple hair sample.

Rapeseed oil allergy symptoms

Understanding the symptoms can be challenging due to their similarity to other digestive issues or allergic reactions. Common symptoms may include:

  • Digestive Distress: People may experience bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or nausea.
  • Skin Reactions: Some people may develop skin rashes, itching, or hives upon contact with rapeseed oil or products containing it.
  • Respiratory Issues: In rare cases, inhaling the vapours or coming into contact with airborne particles may trigger respiratory symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Headaches or Fatigue: Certain individuals may report feeling lethargic, experiencing headaches, or having difficulty concentrating after consuming rapeseed oil.

How to test for rapeseed oil allergy

Diagnosing rapeseed oil allergy often involves a combination of medical history review, elimination diets, and diagnostic tests. Here are some methods commonly used by healthcare professionals:

  • Medical History: Discussing symptoms and dietary habits with a healthcare provider can provide valuable insights into potential food intolerances or allergies.
  • Elimination Diet: Removing rapeseed oil and foods containing it from your diet and monitoring for symptom improvement can help identify potential triggers.
  • Food Diary: Keeping a detailed record of food intake and associated symptoms can help pinpoint patterns and identify potential culprits.
  • Diagnostic Tests: In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend allergy testing, such as skin prick tests or IgE blood tests, to assess immune responses.
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Exploring other potential food allergies

People with rapeseed oil allergy may also be sensitive to other foods, especially those belonging to the same botanical family or sharing similar protein structures. Common culprits include:

  • Other Brassica Vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radish, swedes, turnips, mustard greens, and mustard seeds may contain similar allergens, potentially triggering cross reactivity.
  • Tree Nuts: Some individuals with rapeseed oil allergy may also be allergic to tree nuts like almonds, walnuts, or cashews due to shared allergenic proteins.
  • Soy: Cross-reactivity with soy proteins is possible, leading to allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Cooking oil alternatives

For individuals with rapeseed allergy or those looking to avoid it for other reasons, several alternative oils can serve as suitable substitutes in cooking and food preparation. Some popular options include:

  1. Olive Oil: Known for its robust flavour and health benefits, extra virgin olive oil is a versatile choice for sautéing, salad dressings, and drizzling over finished dishes.
  2. Coconut Oil: With its high smoke point and distinct flavour, coconut oil is ideal for baking, frying, and adding richness to both sweet and savoury recipes.
  3. Avocado Oil: Extracted from ripe avocados, avocado oil is prized for its mild flavour, high smoke point, and abundance of monounsaturated fats, making it a great choice for high-heat cooking and salad dressings.
  4. Grapeseed Oil: Light in flavour and with a high smoke point, grapeseed oil is suitable for frying, roasting, and making homemade mayonnaise or vinaigrettes.

Frequently asked questions

What cooking oils cause allergic reactions?

While any cooking oil has the potential to cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, common culprits include rapeseed oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, and sesame seed oils.

Does rapeseed oil cause inflammation?

While some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory effects, people with rapeseed oil allergy may experience inflammation as a result of immune system activation.

Navigating rapeseed allergy requires awareness, diligence, and careful ingredient scrutiny. By understanding the signs, symptoms, and testing methods associated, people can make informed dietary choices and seek appropriate medical guidance when needed. Whether opting for alternative oils or exploring allergen-friendly recipes, prioritising health and well-being is key in managing food sensitivities effectively.

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