We all know by now that fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Enough advertisements and recommendations for fish oil and omega-3 supplements have appeared over the past few years to make that clear. But what if “good fat” isn’t just about eating fish or a taking a fishy-tasting supplement? What if that good fat can be found in a common cooking oil?
That’s just what new research from Ohio State University scientists suggests. A daily dose of safflower oil reduced metabolic risk factors in overweight women suffering from type 2 diabetes: Their insulin sensitivity improved, their A1Cs went down, and their good cholesterol levels increased. The positive benefits seem to come from a substance called linoleic acid. Research since the 1960s has suggested that polyunsaturated fatty acids like linoleic acid could reduce heart disease.
“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,” said Martha Belury, the study’s lead author and an Ohio State professor.
The amount of oil added wasn’t great—about 1-2/3 teaspoons a day—and the beneficial effects increased over the course of 16 weeks. While many of the women still faced risks at the end of that period due to their weight and illness, researchers suggested that the oil could be combined with more conventional treatments.
“I believe these findings suggest that people should 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,” Belury said. “And this recommendation can be extended to everyone.”
The Ohio State researchers previously found that safflower oil cut body fat and boosted muscle tissue over the same time span. They used data gathered in that earlier paper for the current one.
A draft of the study has appeared online, and it is set for publication in the scientific journal Clinical Nutrition.