A FAMILY-OWNED Lothians farm is to roll out a “superfood” rapeseed oil to health clinics after new research revealed it was more nutritious than its olive-based counterpart.
Experts at Queen Margaret University revealed Black and Gold – produced by Louise and Hugh Elder at Stevenson Mains farm near Haddington – offered the ideal balance of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, meaning it could provide unique health benefits superior to extra-virgin olive, sunflower and similar oils famous for their nutritional value.
They said the oil was also rich in naturally occurring polyphenols, or plant-based antioxidants, which can protect against cancer and other diseases.
Now the couple are to promote Black and Gold across the Lothians as part of a drive to supply it to clinical practitioners, health stores, health centres and through online sales.
Mrs Elder, said: “I’m absolutely delighted – I suppose I knew it was probably as good as olive oil but for it to be better was really exciting.”
She said harvested rape seeds at Stevenson Mains were not put through the same degree of industrial processing as other oils, meaning her product’s nutrients were retained.
“With us, all that happens is that the seed is pressed – nothing else,” she said.
“It’s very simple. We have our own little Kern Kraft machine that crushes the seed and extracts the oil, with the residue used for things like fertiliser, or compacted into solid fuel briquettes, which can be burnt for energy.
“You’re producing a healthier oil but you’re also using the whole seed.”
Mrs Elder revealed that making and promoting the oil from her family-run farm had not been easy given the level of competition from supermarket chains able to advertise their own products much more aggressively.
But she hailed the support she and her husband had received from the business community in and around Haddington.
She said: “You’re hoping that the local retailers will come out and support you, and that’s exactly what has happened. Our local butcher in East Linton takes it and the deli in Haddington as well.
“You do get a lot of competition from the multiples, which have their own brands to sell in Scotland, but businesses here have really embraced it and it’s been lovely to be an ambassador for East Lothian.”
Experts at Queen Margaret University said their research confirmed the “superior” health benefits of Black and Gold.
Dr Jane McKenzie, QMU senior lecturer in biochemistry and metabolism, said: “Our analysis showed that Black and Gold rapeseed oil does indeed contain naturally occurring antioxidants in the form of polyphenols and that these are still active after domestic cooking such as shallow frying.
“The research was also able to confirm that the overall balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids conforms to the World Health Organisation’s international guidelines.
“This means that Black and Gold may be superior to oils commonly used for cooking, such as sunflower and extra virgin olive oil, due to its favourable Omega 3 and 6 ratio, and antioxidant content.”
No consensus on benefits
Health benefits of Omega 3 oils are believed to include the fact that they play an important role in reducing inflammation in areas such as the blood vessels and joints.
They are also thought to promote better heart health and to help ease other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and depression.
However, others claim that the proposed benefits, particularly relating to improvement in the behaviour and performance of school children, smell a little bit fishy.
Expert Dr Ben Goldacre has often argued that no real proof of these benefits exists, citing a “well-conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in 450 children aged eight to ten years old” which concluded that the oils caused “no improvement”.