Want to lose that beer belly? You might consider switching to canola oil and other monounsaturated fats, new research suggests.
A team of American and Canadian food scientists has found so-called high-oleic vegetable oils like canola can lower abdominal fat when used in place of other fats. Consuming certain vegetable oils may also be a simple way of reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome — a group of health conditions that strike one in three Americans and significantly raise heart disease risk.
"The monounsaturated fats in these vegetable oils appear to reduce abdominal fat, which in turn may decrease metabolic syndrome risk factors," said Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor of nutrition, Penn State who helped conduct the new study, presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans this week.
The study involved 121 individuals, at risk for metabolic syndrome, who were received a daily smoothie containing nearly 1.5 ounces of one of five oils as part of a heart-healthy, 2,000-calorie per day diet. Members of the group had five risk factors that define metabolic syndrome — increased belly fat, low "good" HDL cholesterol, as well as high blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglycerides — that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
The results showed that those who consumed canola or high-oleic canola oils on a daily basis for four weeks lowered their belly fat by 1.6 percent compared to those who consumed a flax/safflower oil blend. Abdominal fat was unchanged by the other two oils, which included a corn/safflower oil blend and high-oleic canola oil enriched with an algal source of the omega-3 DHA. Both the flax/safflower and corn/safflower oil blends were low in monounsaturated fat.
According to the American Heart Association, many of the factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome can be addressed by a healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss.
"It is evident that further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms that account for belly fat loss on a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids," said Kris-Etherton. "Our study indicates that simple dietary changes, such as using vegetable oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids, may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and therefore heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes."
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