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How To Use Monounsaturated Fats For Weight Loss

For years, all diets called for the elimination of fats urging us to move towards low-fat alternatives. While, like any other nutrient, overdoing fats can lead to weight gain, cutting out dietary fats need not necessarily result in weight loss. Replacing bad fats (trans fats, saturated fats) with good fats (mono and poly unsaturated fats) comes with benefits that extend beyond weight loss. In this article, we have covered everything there is to know about incorporating monounsaturated fats in your diet. 

Monounsaturated fatty acids

Fats are an important component of any meal as they help in absorbing vitamins and minerals.

They also store energy within the body, protect vital organs, and help in muscle movement.

Fats are chains of carbon and hydrogen and depending on the length of these chains and the configuration of the atoms, there are different types of fats.

  • Saturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Industrial trans-fats

The “mono” in monounsaturated fats represents the single double bond that is found in its chemical structure.

Owing to this chemical structure, monounsaturated fats are often liquid at room temperature.

Are monounsaturated fats good for health?

A study consisting of around 840,000 adults, aged 4-30 years found that the consumption of monounsaturated fats reduced the risk of heart disease by 12%, compared to the control group (little to no monounsaturated fats consumption)

Monounsaturated fats improve overall health by:

  • Reducing the risk of cancer
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes
  • Improving blood cholesterol levels
  • Helping in maintenance and development of cells
  • Improving insulin sensitivity 
  • Reducing inflammation

Sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, nuts, safflower, and sunflower oils. 

Is there a relationship between monounsaturated fats and weight gain?

Weight gain is caused when the calories consumed are greater than the calories burnt.

All fats provide the same amount of energy, which is about 9 calories per gram.

Based on your lifestyle, and your basal metabolic rate, eating the right amount of fat in your diet can help with weight management. 

Even though weight gain/loss is a simple equation of calories in and out, the quality of the food you eat as a part of your diet is very important.

Some studies have shown that if calorie intake remains the same, diets high in MUFAs lead to weight loss and could even be more effective than a high-carb diet. 

What is the recommended amount of monounsaturated fat intake?

It is recommended to use monounsaturated fats as a replacement to saturated or trans-fats as much as possible.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that fats should be limited to 25 to 30% of the total daily calories, this includes all types of fats. 

How do genes affect the relationship between monounsaturated fats and weight?

Genes in our bodies determine how a certain nutrient would be assimilated.

Similarly, in this case, there are some genes that can affect the relationship between monounsaturated fats intake and weight gain or loss. 

ADIPOQ

This gene is involved in the control of fat metabolism, as well as insulin sensitivity in the body.

Changes in this gene have a direct consequence on anti-diabetic, anti-atherogenic, and anti-inflammatory activities.

The gene codes for the most abundant adipocyte-derived protein, adiponectin.

Decreased adiponetcin levels are thought to play a central role in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Changes in lifestyle that lead to weight loss, for example through incorporating exercise and a balanced diet, can lead to an increase in adiponectin concentration and increased insulin sensitivity. 

A study found that a variation in the ADIPOQ gene can lead to a difference in blood adiponectin levels.

Individuals with a G allele have lower blood adiponectin levels, as compared to those with an A allele. Carriers of the A allele (AA/AG), therefore, had lower weight, BMI, waist, and hip circumferences.

While considering the monounsaturated fats intake of greater than 13% of the total energy intake, the A allele carriers had a considerably lower BMI compared to GG carriers.

This shows a great relationship between the effect of a gene on monounsaturated fats intake and weight. 

NR1D1

There is a growing number of studies that support the relationship between circadian rhythms and metabolic disorders.

NR1D1, also known as REV-ERB-ALPHA1 coordinates metabolic patterns according to circadian patterns.

The expression of this gene is greatly induced during adipogenesis and could be a potential target for novel anti-obesity treatments. 

A study analyzed the association between NR1D1, monounsaturated fats intake, and weight in North American and Mediterranean populations,

A variation in this gene was strongly associated with being ‘abdominally obese’.

Carriers of the A allele (AA/AG) had a lower probability of being obese than carriers of the G allele.

There was a also significant interaction for obesity and NR1D1 and monounsaturated fats intake in the Mediterranean population.

Individuals with the A allele had higher protection against obesity with diets rich in monounsaturated fats. (>55% of total fat). 

PPARG

This is expressed predominantly in adipose tissue and plays a role in adipocyte differentiation, glucose homeostasis, fatty acid metabolism, and insulin signal transduction.

Activation of this gene results in improved insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes patients.

PPARG has been proposed as a viable candidate that could contribute to bodyweight reduction in response to calorie reduction. 

A study recruited overweight subjects between the ages of 20-65 years, in southwestern Spain.

They analyzed the subjects as they underwent a treatment program for obesity.

This included analyzing the number of calories expended during exercise and analyzing diets.

They found a gene-diet interaction between PPARG and monounsaturated fats intake.

Subjects that carried the G allele (CG/GG) were significantly less obese than those with the C allele (CC)- when MUFA intake was high (>56% of total fat).

This difference disappeared in low monounsaturated fats diets. 

Overall, in each case, diets with high monounsaturated fats intake (>55% of total fat) resulted in a greater weight loss in individuals.

This shows that there is some association between high monounsaturated fats intake, genes, and weight loss/gain.

Which is better: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) or monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)?

PUFAs are usually found in vegetable and seed oils.

Increasing PUFA intake, and substituting this for saturated fats in diets can reduce the risk of heart disease by 19%.  

According to a study, compared to MUFA, patients in the PUFA group lost more weight, had lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and increased dilation of blood vessels. 

Other benefits of PUFA:

  • Reduces harmful LDL cholesterol
  • Improves cholesterol profile
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes

Food sources of MUFA

Most foods have a combination of all types of fats. Foods and oils that have a higher percentage of MUFA are:

  • Nuts: Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and cashews
  • Avocado
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Eggs
  • Pork
  • Peanut butter and peanut oil
  • Sesame, safflower, and canola oil

Summary

Fats are a necessary component in a balanced diet. Fats come in different types, ranging from trans-fats, saturated and unsaturated fats. Of these, industrial trans-fats (found in cakes, and cookies) are hazardous for health and increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are moderate in their risk, and should be included in diets with caution. Unsaturated fats, in comparison, are healthier with PUFAs potentially being the healthiest option. Diets high in MUFAs may aid in weight loss and can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and can improve insulin sensitivity.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2753535/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4059404/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3570324/

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Published on August 14, 2020

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