Women's health * 50+ health * Healthy living * Weight loss

Cooking oil from safflower may help prevent heart disease

Cooking oil from safflower may help prevent heart disease Can also reduce fat in stomach area

Cooking oil derived from the safflower plant can improve a number of key health indicators if taken daily, according to a new study.

A component of safflower oil, linoleic acid, is a member of a family of chemicals (polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs) which have been linked to heart health benefits. This has been known since the 1960s, but increasing focus on the use of omega-3 fish oils has meant that researchers have neglected PUFAs recently.

But Professor Martha Belury of the Ohio State University has been investigating the effects of linolic acid on a group of obese women suffering from diabetes. In a previous study she found that taking safflower oil can help reduce abdominal fat and increase muscle tissue after a taking the oil daily for 16 weeks.

The new study looked at the data gathered from the first study in more detail. This found that in almost all cases the use of safflower oil resulted in an improvement in metabolic measures. These included:

  • An increase in insulin sensitivity (reduced sensitivity is a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes);
  • A decrease in a blood protein that is a marker for diabetes; and
  • A decrease in a protein linked to increased risk of heart attack.

The use of safflower oil also resulted in a lowering of the women's blood sugar levels and an increase in the level of HDL - so-called "good" cholesterol.

Commenting on the results, which are published online in the journal Clinical Nutrition, Belury said: "The women in the study didn't replace what was in their diet with safflower oil. They added it to what they were already doing. And that says to me that certain people need a little more of this type of good fat - particularly when they're obese women who already have diabetes."

Dr Belury called on people to consider adding this ingredient to their eating habits: "I believe these findings suggest that people consciously make sure they get a serving of healthy oil in their diets each day - maybe an oil and vinegar dressing on a salad, or some oil for cooking. And this recommendation can be extended to everyone."

It remains to be seen if these benefits of safflower oil can also be applied to non-diabetes sufferers.

This article was published on Tue 22 March 2011

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