INDIANAPOLIS — For a food oil not well used among American food processors in the past, canola today enjoys a high profile.

“Canola is now the second largest oils by volume in the U.S. food industry,” said David Dzisiak, commercial leader, grains and oils, Dow AgroSciences, Indianapolis. He addressed a media webcast March 13 about progress gained by the company’s Omega-9 canola oils.

“Canola is a growth crop, with more than 20 million acres seeded in North America,” said David Booher, group leader, healthy oils, at the company. The crop yields 1.5 billion lbs of oil, a 250% increase from 2011.

“And 40% of canola used by the U.S. food industry is Omega-9 canola,” he added.

“For many decades, oils have been a commodity product,” Mr. Dzisiak said, “but the new oils have specific benefits that take them out of the commodity area.”

Dow AgroSciences guided the conventional breeding process that developed Nexera canola and assisted it through the growing and commercialization process. The company branded the oil Omega-9, which is also a shorthand reference for the three main unsaturated fatty acids in food. This canola oil is composed of 74% oleic, 14% linoleic and 2% linolenic fatty acids. The high oleic content helps these oils resist breakdown; Omega-9 canola has an oil stability index (OSI) of 16 hours.

But it’s the unsaturated fat content — and its potential to alter dietary patterns and health outcomes — that pushes Omega-9 canola oil forward.

Since 2011, processing capacity has doubled. Mr. Dzisiak said commercial quantities of the oil are now being made by nine processors: Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Oils, LDM Foods (Louis Dreyfus Commodities), Richardson Oilseed, Stratas Foods, Ventura Foods and Viterra Processing.

Additionally, many of the food industry’s biggest names — General Mills, Kraft, PepsiCo and Kellogg — have participated through “open innovation” models with the projects at the company’s Indianapolis applications research facility, said Mary LaGuardia, Omega-9 Oils market manager.

Ms. LaGuardia said Omega-9 oils are used across all sectors of the food processing industry, including food service.

This oil change for the American diet comes about as attitudes — and dietary guidance — about food oils have changed drastically.

Turning to dietary impacts of the change in food oils, Mr. Dzisiak said science-based predictions that thousands of heart-disease deaths annually could be avoided by changing the oils commonly consumed in the American diet. The reduction in risk has been well documented, but the costs to the health care system have not until now.

“Rising health care costs are very topical,” Mr. Dzisiak said. “Most are self-inflicted through the unhealthy diets of Americans. But with reduced heart health risks, there should be associated cost reductions.”

He revealed that two leading medical economists — John Cawley, Cornell University, and Chad Meyerhoefer, Lehigh University — submitted a paper on potential health care cost reductions to be gained by switching American diets to healthier oils. The report, now undergoing peer review, is expected to be published in the second quarter of 2014.

“This should be a fascinating study,” Mr. Dzisiak said.

Omega-9 canola oil is derived from conventional bred oilseeds. All traits come from existing canola lines.

“No new genes have been introduced into canola,” said Gregory Gingera, Ph.D., canola breeder, Dow AgroSciences Canada, Saskatoon, Sask.

He described to the webcast audience how the company takes advantage of its locations in Canada and Chile to rapidly cycle hybridization efforts year round.

“The Omega-9 profile is hard to maintain,” Mr. Gingera said. Thus, the company works continually to refine and improve its hybrid canola seeds to achieve higher value components.

“We have built a fully loaded pipeline of Omega-9 hybrids,” he said.