Categories: Health

Plant-based Fats Reduce Weight and Heart Disease

Monounsaturated and ALA oils reduce hypertension.

Two recent studies have shown that diets that are high in plant-based omega-3s and monounsaturated fats lead to significant reductions of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Nearly 3,000 people studied for fats

The most recent study comes from researchers at the University of Washington, who studied 2,972 elderly adults over a fourteen-year period, covering 32,365 patient-years in total. The researchers utilized the Cardiovascular Health Study to identify outcomes with respect to heart disease.

The research found they could divide the patients into three distinct groups: Those who consumed high rates of trans fatty acids, those who consumed high rates of carbohydrates and thus converted a significant amount of carbohydrate to fats – called de novo lipogenesis – and those who ate significant amounts of long-chain monounsaturated fats.

As expected, those who consumed more trans-fat in their diet had a 58% greater risk of heart disease and nearly two-and-a-half times the incidence of stroke than those who consumed less trans-fat.

But those who consumed a largely carbohydrate diet – converting to lipids within the body – and those who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats had no significant increase in heart disease when greater levels were compared to the least levels of that particular consumption pattern.

Metabolic syndrome studied

In another study, from Muenster, Germany’s University of Applied Sciences, researchers tested 81 people diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome, with either a diet supplemented with rapeseed oil (alpha-linolenic acids), supplemented with olive oil (monounsaturated fatty acids) or supplemented with neither.

The amount of oil supplemented was 3 grams per kilogram of body weight. A 150-pound person, for example, would consume a little over 200 grams – or about 7 ounces – of one of these oils per day with their diet.

After six months, the dietary groups were tested for metabolic syndrome symptoms, and it was found that both the group supplementing with olive oil and the group supplementing with rapeseed oil had significantly improved parameters of metabolic syndrome, which included lower levels of blood pressure, artery disease, and obesity.

While the olive and the rapeseed groups had similar benefits, the rapeseed group had greater reductions of blood pressure.

The weight loss difference was extraordinary in this study. The olive oil and rapeseed oil supplemented groups had an average of 30% lower weight than the non-supplemented group. Fiber also helps reduce weight, according to other research.

What are monounsaturated fats?

Oils high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil and others. The primary monounsaturated fat is oleic acid. Monounsaturated fats have single bonds, with longer or shorter chains.

How about alpha-linolenic fatty acids?

Oils high in alpha-linolenic fatty acids (ALA) include canola (a variety of rapeseed oil grown in North America), flax, perila, walnut, hemp and others. ALA fatty acids have three double bonds. Most conventional canola oil grown today in Northern America is genetically modified. However, significant amounts of rapeseed grown in Europe and elsewhere is not GMO.

Trans-fats are typically produced when oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenation takes place during oil refining, as the processor hydrogenates the oil – infusing it with hydrogen. Oils that are typically hydrogenated include soybean and cottonseed oils.

Trans-fats can also be produced when oils are overheated during cooking. This means that extended frying can produce trans-fats, or cooking with highly refined oils.

Learn about the best fats in the best diet:

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Imamura F, Lemaitre RN, King IB, Song X, Lichtenstein AH, Matthan NR, Herrington DM, Siscovick DS, Mozaffarian D. Novel circulating fatty acid patterns and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1252-61.

Baxheinrich A, Stratmann B, Lee-Barkey YH, Tschoepe D, Wahrburg U. Effects of a rapeseed oil-enriched hypoenergetic diet with a high content of α-linolenic acid on body weight and cardiovascular risk profile in patients with the metabolic syndrome. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108(4):682-91.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact:

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