Coconut, olive, sunflower – shopping for the right oil to cook with can be daunting with so many options. But if you’re hoping to stay trim, and monitor your risk of heart disease and diabetes, scientists say you ought to swap your olive oil for grapeseed oil and corn oil.
In a new study, U.S. researchers say some oils, such as grapeseed, are higher in linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that has heart-protective, insulin-lowering properties.
“Certain oils are healthier than others. We think anybody who has a propensity for weight gain is better off having polyunsaturated fat in their diets,” lead researcher, Dr. Martha Belury, told Global News.
Belury is a nutrition professor at Ohio State University where she focuses on studying cooking oil in our diets and its affect on body composition. Her latest findings point to a link between linoleic acid helping to lower diabetes and heart disease risk, but it isn’t a cause and effect, necessarily.
She’s not suggesting that olive oil is bad, by any means. But its fatty components don’t reap the benefits of lowering heart disease and diabetes risk the same way as other vegetable oils do.
“[Olive oil] has a lot of nice properties. They taste different, they have flavonoids, but the fatty acid is not protective. It’s not going to bring benefits for those trying to stop weight gain in the belly region,” she explained.
For her research, Belury zeroed in on linoleic acid. Right now, it’s highest in grapeseed oil and corn oil, but if consumers read labels carefully, they may even find high levels of it in generic vegetable oils, too. It’ll appear as “polyunsaturated fats.”
Olive oil, salmon, and tuna are all contain high levels of oleic acid.
Belury and her team conducted a secondary analysis, which is when existing health data gathered for one piece of research is applied to uncover other findings. She had the baseline body composition of healthy volunteers who were fasting before meals. Their blood samples, fatty acid levels, inflammation and insulin levels were studied.
The scientists found that higher levels of linoleic acid helped with lean body mass and decreasing fat around the waist. Even a teaspoon and a half is enough, Belury told Global News. That could be a teaspoon of grapeseed oil in your salad dressing or for stir-frying your vegetables.
(Just don’t deep fry or burn these oils because it changes the compounds as the oil gets overheated, she warned.)
Oleic acid didn’t help with body composition or diabetes risk even though “healthy fats,” such as olive oil are often promoted to consumers.
Olive oil is a major staple of the Mediterranean diet, for example. Belury told Global News the diet has many benefits: it highlights whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and smaller portions. But consumers could easily swap olive oil for other oils instead.
Coconut and palm oil have also been heavily promoted to the masses. If you’re battling heart disease or trying to watch your weight, monitor your intake of these oils.
“These things are full of saturated fat. That’s why they’re solid and they’re not good for your heart,” Belury advised.
So the next time you’re shopping for a new cooking oil, zero in on grapeseed or corn oil or skim the ingredients list to find oils high in polyunsaturated fat.
It used to be widely available in safflower, sunflower and soybean oils. The trouble is low-cost cooking oils that are rich in linoleic acid have been disappearing from grocery store shelves because the industry is emphasizing a push for plants that have been modified, Belury said.
The shift happened in the past five years or so. Now these common oils contain less than 20 per cent linoleic acid. The acid makes up 80 per cent of fatty acid in grapeseed oil for comparison.
Belury’s next steps are to study why linoleic acid could be helping to lower heart disease and diabetes risk.
Her full findings were published this week in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.
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