Including canola oil as part of a healthy diet can help cut down on belly fat in just four weeks, according to new research from Penn State. Belly, or visceral, fat is known to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and is linked with a heightened risk of conditions such as metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
Canola oil, made from the seeds of cultivated forms of the rapeseed plant, is high in monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to positively affect body composition. To determine the effects of a diet low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat in people at high risk for metabolic syndrome (a cluster of related conditions that increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes), researchers randomly assigned 101 participants to regularly consume either conventional canola oil, high-oleic acid canola oil, high-oleic acid canola oil with DHA (a type of omega-3 fat), corn and safflower oil, or flax and safflower oil as part their diet for four weeks. At the end of each four-week period, the subjects were given a four-week break before being assigned to a different diet group.
All of the participants had abdominal obesity, or excess belly fat, and either had or were at risk of metabolic syndrome. They drank two smoothies each day that contained the treatment oil for their diet group. The amount of oil in each smoothie was based on each person’s calorie needs, with those on a 3000-calorie-per-day diet receiving 60 grams (roughly four tablespoons) of the oil, constituting 18% of their energy needs, and others receiving 30 grams (roughly two tablespoons) of the oil. In addition to the treatment oil, each smoothie contained 100 grams of orange sherbet, 100 grams of non-fat milk, and 100 grams of frozen unsweetened strawberries.
The researchers found that after one month on a diet that included canola oil, the participants had a quarter-pound less belly fat than they did before beginning the diet, and the weight did not move elsewhere on the body.
“As a general rule, you can’t target weight loss to specific body regions,” notes study author Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD. “But monounsaturated fatty acids seem to specifically target abdominal fat.” To incorporate canola oil into your diet, she recommends using it for sautéing and baking, as well as in smoothies and salad dressings.
The researchers suggest that further studies are needed to look at the long-term effects of eating a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids such as canola oil.
For more information, see the Penn State press release “Trimming the Spare Tire: Canola Oil May Cut Belly Fat” or the study in the journal Obesity. And for expert tips on reducing belly fat, read the three-part series “Blasted Belly Fat,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.
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