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Extracting even more benefits from canola

There is more to canola than oil, feed and biofuel. A major research project is exploring value-added opportunities for antioxidant extracts commonly found in canola. If successful, the byproducts of oil crushing could become even more valuable.


October 20, 2009
By Carolyn King

There is more to canola than oil, feed and biofuel. A major research project is exploring value-added opportunities for antioxidant extracts commonly found in canola. If successful, the byproducts of oil crushing could become even more valuable.
 

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Extracts from canola seed, oil and meal could provide value-added opportunities.
Photo courtesy of the Canola Council of Canada.

 

Dr. Usha Thiyam of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba, is leading the project. She says, “The objective of this three-year project is to explore the nutraceutical and functional properties of the lesser known antioxidants, phenolic components such as sinapic acid and tocopherols, from various canola substrates, meaning canola seed, oil and meal.”

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These antioxidant compounds make up a very small percentage of the total composition of a canola seed, but they could be quite valuable in the growing market for nutraceuticals (food extracts that may have medicinal benefits) and functional foods (foods that may provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition). Antioxidants prevent or slow oxidative damage to cells. They occur naturally in some foods and can be added to foods and cosmetics to enhance health benefits or other qualities.
 
The Canola Council of Canada is one of the project’s funders. The Council’s Lisa Campbell says, “Usha is looking at one component, the phenolics that are present in canola, that haven’t really been thoroughly extracted and examined as to what type of unique antioxidant properties they might have or unique health properties they might have over the long term. It’s a component that hasn’t been utilized and that could potentially be a high-value ingredient.”
 

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Researcher Dr. Usha Thiyam (right) and her research group are comparing novel and conventional methods to extract antioxidant compounds from canola.
Photo courtesy of the Richardson Centre.

 

Thiyam says the project is in the forefront of research on the extraction and use of these particular types of compounds from canola. Researchers from the University of Manitoba and from Germany, India and Australia are collaborating on the project.

The Richardson Centre’s state-of-the-art equipment gives Thiyam and her research team the opportunity to compare various extraction techniques to determine which ones are fastest and most effective at obtaining the desired components. She says, “We are trying several conventional and non-conventional techniques, such as ultrasound-assisted techniques, microwave-assisted techniques, and other conventional techniques, to extract some of these interesting components from canola. We are also looking to optimize the components in the extracts of canola, and we are exploring several media for these techniques, for example, an aqueous-based medium only as compared to traditionally used solvents.”

Enhancing value and stability
The extracts could have food and non-food applications. Thiyam explains, “They could be used as food additives to enhance the stability of the product or added to various non-food products to add value to the product. For example we would like to add value to oils, such as canola oil, and canola oil-containing systems, such as salad dressing or mayonnaise or cosmetic products. So we want to apply these extracts and see whether they enhance the value and the stability of the product in some way.”

For instance, canola meal, a byproduct of canola oil processing, has a significant amount of these antioxidant compounds. The research team is extracting the compounds from the meal and adding them to the refined canola oil to enhance the oil’s stability. “Consumers are interested in natural additives,” notes Campbell. “Canola oil is a fantastic oil and it has a great shelf-life, but in certain applications you would use an antioxidant and if you can use one that’s already present in the seed, how great is that?”

Thiyam says this research project, which started in 2008, is very timely. “It will complement several ongoing and newer findings in the subject of nutraceuticals and functional foods as well as the positive benefits of canola oil related to nutrition, heart disease and diabetes.”
 
Along with the Canola Council, the project’s funders include Syngenta Crop Protection (Canada) Inc. and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.