A New Kind of Cooking Oil:
Scanning the shelves of my local grocery store a few years ago, I noticed a new kind of cooking oil, one that claimed to be very different from the rest, yet was not a fat substitute. The makers of Enova claimed that less of its oil was stored in the body as fat. This was an intriguing proposition.
Note: Enova cooking oil is no longer available, but find out below what was different about this cooking oil.
Who Was It Made By?:
Enova oil was a product of Kao Health and Nutrition LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kao Corporation of Japan. In 2009, sales of the oil were suspended because of higher than normal levels of a "probable carcinogen" present in the oil. A fuller explanation from the Consumer's Union of Japan can be found here
What Was the Oil Made From?:
Enova oil was essentially a blend of soybean and canola oils. Nutritionally, Enova was similar to regular vegetable oils. A tablespoon still delivered 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, so it was not a low fat or low calorie oil.
Was Enova A Heart Healthy Oil?:
Most of its fat was unsaturated, with the balance tipped towards polyunsaturated fat (8g) rather than monounsaturated fat (5g). Both types help lower levels of bad cholesterol, but polyunsaturated fat can also lower levels of good cholesterol. The ratio of Omega 6 fatty acids to the more beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids in Enova is 10:1. Ideally this ratio should be closer to 3:1, since excess consumption of Omega 6 has been linked to high blood pressure, inflammation and other chronic diseases.
Were There any Saturated Fats or Trans Fats in Enova Oil?:
At half a gram per serving, Enova’s saturated fat content was lower than that of its closest counterparts (canola oil has 1 gram of saturated fat). Enova claimed to have 0g of trans fat per serving (which is one tablespoon), yet it did not gained approval in European markets because of, among other things, stated concerns about Enova Oil's trans-fatty-acid content
How Did Enova Oil Work?:
The key to Enova brand oil was that it was supposed to be metabolized differently than other oils, which meant more of it was burned and less of it was stored as fat, even though the body absorbed it in the same way as conventional fat.
Enova was produced through a process that increased natural diacylglycerol (DAG) levels, over triacylglycerols (TAG), which are the main components of regular oils. The lower intestine treats these particular DAG fats differently. Instead of being repackaged and stored in the body as fat, these special DAG molecules are filtered into the bloodstream and broken down in the liver instead.
Substituting Enova for conventional oils could have helped lower blood lipid levels, especially triglycerides. Initial studies showed reductions in post-meal triglyceride levels of more than 30 percent; other studies showed some fat loss, too.
Although Enova oil was available in the United States from January 2005 until 2009, it was sold in Japan under the brand name Healthy Econa Cooking Oil since 1999, and became Japan's bestselling cooking oil.
Light in color and mild in taste, Enova oil was given GRAS status—"generally recognized as safe"—by the Food and Drug Administration, which meant it could be used for home cooking, as well as an ingredient in salad dressings, mayonnaise, spreads and other processed foods. Unfortunately for the company, concerns about a "probable" carcinogenic substance (glycidol) found in a higher than normal concentration in the oil led to the "temporary" withdrawal of the product in 2009. it has yet to reappear on shelves.
For more information, check out Enova’s web site, and this report by the Consumer's Union of Japan.