Polyunsaturated fat better than monounsaturated fat in diet for metabolic syndrome

Maryland researcher use muffins to test best replacement fat.

A special muffin recipe made with polyunsaturated fat helped people lose more weight than those with monounsaturated fat and improve other health measures, according to a small study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine that may help doctors understand the best type of diet in helping combat serious disease.

Researchers already knew replacing animal-based saturated fats with these plant-based alternatives – olive, safflower, peanut and corn oil, for example – offered health benefits. But the Maryland researchers wanted to know which substitute would promote the most healthful benefits in patients with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and extra body fat.

Those patients are at higher risk for heart problems among other problems.

The researchers baked up some muffins formulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and fed them to more than three dozen patients who were put on a low-calorie diet and encouraged to exercise.

“The results surprised us, because, based on other studies elsewhere, we hypothesized that [monounsaturated fat] would be superior to [polyunsaturated fat] for weight loss and improvement in heart-related parameters,” said Dr. Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine in the school of medicine and preventive cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the study’s lead author. “The muffins were from a USDA recipe developed specifically for this study, and both varieties tasted really good.”

Muffins made with polyunsaturated safflower oil helped patients lose more weight, reduce blood pressure and improve other conditions. More patients also became metabolically normal than those who ate muffins made with monounsaturated fat.

Miller said polyunsaturated fat may activate signaling in the brain to reduce appetite. More research is needed, but the fat may be a better substitute for saturated fat in people who are overweight, have hypertension, diabetes or metabolic syndrome, he said.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.

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