Diabetes Self-Management Blog

According to a recent study from Ohio State University, daily consumption of safflower oil over the course of 16 weeks can improve health markers such as blood glucose level, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol level, and inflammation in certain people with Type 2 diabetes. As reported by DiabetesSelfManagement.com in 2009, previous research by the same team showed that daily supplementation with safflower oil reduced abdominal fat, increased muscle tissue, and lowered fasting blood glucose levels.

Safflower oil, commonly used in cooking, contains linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Decades of research suggest that PUFAs from plant sources can help protect against heart disease. In their previous study with this oil, the researchers had 35 obese, postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes take 8 grams per day (slightly less than 2 teaspoons) of either safflower oil or conjugated linoleic acid (CLA, naturally found in some meats and dairy products), then the same amount of the other type of oil, 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 study period, the researchers were surprised to find that daily consumption of safflower oil had reduced abdominal obesity in the participants.

Performing further research on the data from this original trial, the researchers discovered that CLA reduced total body fat, but did not affect blood glucose or cholesterol control in the women. Safflower oil, on the other hand, increased insulin sensitivity by about 2.7% (insulin resistance is a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes) and decreased A1C by 0.64%. Levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body, also decreased by about 17.5%. Additionally, the safflower oil supplementation led to a 14.0% increase in HDL (”good”) cholesterol within 12 weeks.

Martha Belury, PhD, RD, lead author of the study, noted that “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… We don’t know the long-term effects of safflower oil from this study alone, but I certainly think it’s possible that the risk for cardiovascular problems could be significantly decreased in the high-risk group if supplementation were continued.”

Dr. Belury suggests that a daily dose of roughly 1 2/3 teaspoons of safflower oil is a safe way to reduce heart risk. (Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes.) She recommends using cooking oil or oil and vinegar salad dressings to incorporate good fats into the daily diet.

To learn more, read the piece “A Dose of Safflower Oil Each Day Might Keep Heart Disease at Bay” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

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