Lowering Body Fat: Oils Show Promise for Some

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In a preliminary study out of Ohio State University, two common dietary oils have shown promise as therapies for lowering body fat in certain people with Type 2 diabetes.

The research involved safflower oil, commonly used in cooking, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), naturally found in some meats and dairy products. Both are made mostly of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are associated with a variety of health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol levels and protecting against arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

Thirty-five obese, postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes completed the trial, first taking 8 grams per day (slightly less than 2 teaspoons) of one type of oil, then the same amount of the other, for 16 weeks each. The subjects were instructed not to change their diet or exercise regimens so that the effects of only the supplements could be measured.

At the end of the trial period, the researchers were surprised to discover that supplementation with the safflower oil decreased fat in the trunk area by an average of 6.3% and supplementation with the CLA reduced total body fat by an average of 3.2%. According to senior author Martha Belury, “I never would have imagined such a finding. This study is the first to show that such a modest amount of a linoleic acid-rich oil may have a profound effect on body composition in women.”

In addition to its effect on body fat, the safflower oil also increased the women’s muscle mass by an average of approximately 1.4 to 3 pounds and additionally lowered their fasting blood glucose levels by 11–19 mg/dl, on average.

Further research is required to determine the long-term safety of this type of supplementation, since some studies have suggested that fat that leaves fat tissue may end up in the liver or muscles, where it could lead to insulin resistance. And the study findings may have a limited application, warns Lona Sandon, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, who notes that “Although the study appears to be fairly well done, there are a lot of limitations and concerns for applying this information to anyone other than postmenopausal, obese women with Type 2 diabetes.”

To learn more, read “Two Dietary Oils, Two Sets of Benefits for Older Women With Diabetes,” or see the study’s abstract on the Web site of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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