Benefits of monounsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados, and certain nuts. In fact, the evidence shows that monounsaturated fats have several health benefits. They can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation.

What Are Monounsaturated Fats?

There are several different types of fat in your diet.

Saturated fats are generally considered as unhealthy and comes mostly from animal sources of fat, like butter, cream, lard, etc. as well as coconut.

Unsaturated fats, which includes monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are healthy fats and comes mostly from plant sources of fat, like avocado, olive oil, nuts, etc.

Many foods are high in MUFAs, but most consist of a combination of different fats. There are very few foods that contain only one type of fat.

For example, olive oil is extremely high in MUFAs and other types of fat.

Foods that are high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are usually liquid at room temperature, whereas foods that are high in saturated fats, such as butter and coconut oil, are usually solid at room temperature.

These different fats affect health and disease differently. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to have several health benefits

They May Help Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease

There is a big debate in nutrition about whether excessive saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease.

However, there is good evidence that increasing MUFAs in your diet can reduce risk factors for heart disease, especially if you are replacing saturated fat.

Too much cholesterol in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease, as it can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks or stroke. Various studies have shown that a high intake of monounsaturated fats can reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides

For example, one study of 162 healthy people compared three months of a high-MUFA diet with a high-saturated fat diet to see the effects on blood cholesterol.

This study found that the diet high in saturated fat increased unhealthy LDL cholesterol by 4%, while the high-MUFA diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 5%.

Other smaller studies have found similar results of MUFAs reducing LDL cholesterol and increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.

High-MUFA diets can help lower blood pressure, too. A large study of 164 people with high blood pressure found that a high-MUFA diet lowered blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, compared to a high-carb diet.

Similar beneficial results in blood pressure have also been found in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

However, it is important to note that the beneficial effects of high-MUFA diets are only seen when they replace saturated fat or carbs in the diet.

Furthermore, in each of these studies, the high-MUFA diets were part of calorie-controlled diets, meaning that adding extra calories to your diet through high-MUFA foods may not have the same benefits.

Monounsaturated Fats May Help Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar by moving it from the blood into your cells. The production of insulin is important for preventing high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.

Studies have shown that high-MUFA diets can improve insulin sensitivity in both those with and without high blood sugar.

One study of 162 healthy people found that eating a high-MUFA diet for three months improved insulin sensitivity by 9%.

A similar, separate study of 472 people with metabolic syndrome found that those who ate a high-MUFA diet for 12 weeks had significantly reduced insulin resistance.

Other studies have found similar beneficial effects of high-MUFA diets on insulin and blood sugar control.

They May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal immune system process that helps your body fight infection.

But sometimes inflammation happens slowly over a long period of time, which can contribute to chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.

Compared to other diets, such as high-saturated fat diets and Western diets, high-MUFA diets can reduce inflammation.

One study found that high-MUFA diets reduced inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome, compared to high-saturated fat diets.

Other studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet high in MUFAs have significantly lower inflammatory chemicals in their blood, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).

High-MUFA diets can also reduce the expression of inflammatory genes in fat tissue compared to high-saturated fat diets. This may be one of the ways that MUFAs are helpful for weight loss.

By reducing inflammation, high-MUFA diets may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Which Foods Contain These Fats?

The best sources of MUFAs are plant-based foods, including nuts, seeds, and olive oil. They can be found in meat and animal-based foods, as well.

In fact, some evidence suggests that plant-based sources of MUFAs, particularly olive oil, are more desirable than animal-based sources.

This may be due to the additional beneficial components in olive oil.

Here is a list of foods high in MUFAs, along with the amount found in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of the food:

Olive oil: 73.1 grams
Almonds: 33.6 grams
Cashews: 27.3 grams
Peanuts: 24.7 grams
Pistachios: 24.2 grams
Olives: 15 grams
Pumpkin seeds: 13.1 grams
Pork: 10.7 grams
Avocados: 9.8 grams
Sunflower seeds: 9.5 grams
Eggs: 4 grams

The Bottom Line

Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats most found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and some animal-based foods.

Diets high in monounsaturated fats can help with weight loss and may reduce risk factors for heart disease if they do not add extra calories to your diet.

Foods that contain MUFAs, especially olive oil, may also help reduce cancer risk, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

Although it is also important to eat other types of fat, replacing unhealthy fats with MUFAs can provide several health benefits.

  1. Institute of Medicine, et al. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carboydrates, Fibre, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids, National Academies Press , 2005. ProQuest Ebook Central, Created from northwu-eboos o 2020-08-25
  2. n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Lipids and Lipoporteins in End-stage Renal Disease. Jeppe Hagstrup Christensen; Erik Berg Schmidt; My Svensson. Clin Lipidology. 2011; 6(5):563-576
  3. Gausch-Ferre and colleagues pooled data from 61181 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1990-2014) and 31797 men from the health professionals Follow up study (1990-2014)
10 September 2020

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