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Diet Rich in ‘Functional’ Oil Cuts Adiposity, Improves Lipids
By eInternal Medicine News: by Bruce Jancin
Apr 22, 2003, 7:06am

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CHICAGO — A diet rich in “functional” oil reduces adiposity while improving lipid profiles, Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., said at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association.

This functional oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides, flaxseed oil, and phytosterols, said Dr. St-Onge, a research nutritionist at McGill University in Montreal. It's a dietary approach that may be particularly useful in treating patients with the metabolic syndrome.

“A multipronged approach to [treating] metabolic disorders with diet is gaining popularity and may be considered a more holistic approach to dietary management,” Dr. St-Onge said.

Medium-chain triglycerides are available as a supplement at vitamin stores. Food sources include palm oil, coconut oil, and butter. Medium-chain triglycerides have been shown in animal and human studies to result in increased energy expenditure and faster and more complete fat oxidation, compared with the more typically consumed long-chain triglycerides.

The rapid oxidation of medium-chain triglycerides in the liver means that only small portions are converted to complex lipids, which have the potential to travel through the circulation and be deposited into adipose tissue stores, she said.

But medium-chain triglycerides have undesirable effects on lipids. They raise total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. For that reason, Dr. St-Onge decided to combine medium-chain triglycerides with flaxseed oil, which is rich in triglyceride-lowering -linoleic acid and phytoestrogens, plant sterols known to reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels.

The resultant product, which she termed “functional oil,” was tested in a 2-month, randomized, crossover clinical trial with 20 overweight but otherwise healthy men. They were randomly assigned to consume one of two controlled diets for a month, each diet consisting of 45% of energy from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 40% from fat. In one diet, three-quarters of the fat came from olive oil, a long-chain triglyceride. In the other, three-quarters of the fat came from the functional oil.

All meals during the study were prepared at a clinical research center. Each day, the participants ate two meals at the center and took the third home. After 28 days on one diet, the participants were switched to the other for another 28 days.

The results of MRI assessment of body composition showed reductions in total adipose tissue and subcutaneous fat after a month in the men on the functional oil diet but not in those on the olive oil-rich diet. Energy expenditure, as assessed by indirect calorimetry, was greater while subjects were on the functional oil diet. Patients lost an average of 0.41 kg more body weight while on the functional oil diet than while on the olive oil diet.

Moreover, LDL cholesterol levels fell by a mean of 13.6% while participants were on the functional oil diet, compared with a 2% decrease while on the olive oil diet. Similarly, total cholesterol dropped by 12.1% while subjects were on the functional oil diet, compared with 3.5% while on the long-chain triglyceride-rich diet, she said.

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