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Monounsaturated Fats

June 6, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

The fact that I embrace science as a means of validating natural remedies occasionally puts me at odds with strict holistic advocates. In a recent encounter, I was accused of aligning myself with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – an organization which, by most accounts, has a contentious relationship with the natural health community. My response was that if I were affiliated with the FDA, prescriptions for statin medications (used to lower cholesterol) would become obsolete and avocados would be stocked in pharmacies throughout the land.

Select whole foods, including avocados, nuts, seeds (almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, sunflower seeds) and olives are abundant sources of a variety of fats known as monounsaturates (MUFA). In terms of traditional diets, the so-called Mediterranean diet is perhaps the best known example of an eating style that’s rich in MUFA. Why? Because the predominant fat source in the Mediterranean region is unrefined olive oil.

By now, most health conscious consumers are keenly aware of the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds and walnuts. But, I don’t know too many people who actively seek out foods specifically for their MUFA content. I’d like to see this change because: 1) diets rich in MUFA reduce systemic inflammation (C-reactive protein) which is associated with cancer, diabetes and heart disease risk; 2) higher intake of MUFA probably slows down age-related, cognitive decline – possibly by enhancing “insulin action in the brain”; 3) MUFA improve various risk factors linked to metabolic syndrome and stroke incidence (body fat percentage, high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, insulin resistance and low HDL cholesterol). Even so, there is still a fair amount of “lipophobia” (fear of dietary fat) present in the modern medical paradigm. A change in this unfounded fear is essential in order to curb several of the greatest health threats of our time, namely: diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Adding more monounsaturates to your daily routine is simple enough. And, unlike omega 3 fatty acids, supplements aren’t required. Personally, I use and recommend extra virgin olive oil for cold food preparation and some cooking. However, I try to derive most of my MUFA from whole foods. Whenever possible, I enjoy a small plate of avocado slices and olives or a handful of almonds or hazelnuts instead of using avocado, macadamia or olive oil. My rationale is that virtually every whole food source of MUFA contains valuable nutrients and phytochemicals that aren’t present in as meaningful quantities in the oil itself. For instance, almonds contain a fair share of magnesium, protein and Vitamin E. Avocados are an excellent source of dietary fiber, lutein and potassium. There’s no sense in missing out on much of the inherent goodness of these whole foods by opting for the extracted oil alone.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Consumption of a High Monounsaturated–Fat Diet Reduces Oxidative … (link)

Study 2 – Dietary Fat Types and 4-Year Cognitive Change in Community-Dwelling (link)

Study 3 – Monounsaturated, Trans, and Saturated Fatty Acids & Cognitive Decline (link)

Study 4 – Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Prevent the Aversive Effects of Obesity(link)

Study 5 – Effects of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids on Cardiovascular Risk Factors (link)

Study 6 – Effects of Monounsaturated Fatty Acids on Glycaemic Control in Patients (link)

Study 7 – Adding Monounsaturated Fatty Acids to a Dietary Portfolio of (link)

Study 8 – Health Benefits of Almonds beyond Cholesterol Reduction (link)

Study 9 – Associations of Whole-Blood Fatty Acids and Dietary Intakes w/ Prostate (link)

Study 10 – Olive Oil Intake and Mortality Within the Spanish Population (link)

Olive Oil Intake Is Inversely Related with Various Cancers

Source: Lipids Health Dis. 2011 Jul 30;10:127. (link)

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Memory, Nutrition

10 Comments & Updates to “Monounsaturated Fats”

  1. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr 28;16(5):9588-99.

    Carotenoid profile of tomato sauces: effect of cooking time and content of extra virgin olive oil.

    The consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables such as tomatoes and tomato sauces is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases. The predominant carotenoids in tomato products are in the (all-E) configuration, but (Z) isomers can be formed during thermal processing. The effect of cooking time (15, 30, 45 and 60 min) and the addition of extra virgin olive oil (5% and 10%) on the carotenoid extractability of tomato sauces was monitored using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) and LC-ultraviolet detection (LC-UV). The thermal treatment and the addition of extra virgin olive oil increased the levels of antioxidant activity, total carotenoids, Z-lycopene isomers, α-carotene and β-carotene. These results are of particular nutritional benefit since higher lycopene intake has been associated with a reduced risk of lethal prostate and a reduction of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Moreover, β-carotene has been reported to suppress the up-regulation of heme oxygenase-1 gene expression in a dose dependent manner and to suppress UVA-induced HO-1 gene expression in cultured FEK4.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:


    Eur J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar 25.

    Virgin olive oil, palm olein and coconut oil diets do not raise cell adhesion molecules and thrombogenicity indices in healthy Malaysian adults.

    BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Effects of high-protein diets that are rich in saturated fats on cell adhesion molecules, thrombogenicity and other nonlipid markers of atherosclerosis in humans have not been firmly established. We aim to investigate the effects of high-protein Malaysian diets prepared separately with virgin olive oil (OO), palm olein (PO) and coconut oil (CO) on cell adhesion molecules, lipid inflammatory mediators and thromobogenicity indices in healthy adults.

    METHODS: A randomized cross-over intervention with three dietary sequences, using virgin OO, PO and CO as test fats, was carried out for 5 weeks on each group consisting of 45 men and women. These test fats were incorporated separately at two-thirds of 30% fat calories into high-protein Malaysian diets.

    RESULTS: For fasting and nonfasting blood samples, no significant differences were observed on the effects of the three test-fat diets on thrombaxane B2 (TXB2), TXB2/PGF1α ratios and soluble intracellular and vascular cell adhesion molecules. The OO diet induced significantly lower (P<0.05) plasma leukotriene B4 (LTB4) compared with the other two test diets, whereas PGF1α concentrations were significantly higher (P<0.05) at the end of the PO diet compared with the OO diet.

    CONCLUSION: Diets rich in saturated fatty acids from either PO or CO and high in monounsaturated oleic acid from virgin OO do not alter the thrombogenicity indices-cellular adhesion molecules, thromboxane B2 (TXB2) and TXB2/prostacyclin (PGF1α) ratios. However, the OO diet lowered plasma proinflammatory LTB4, whereas the PO diet raised the antiaggregatory plasma PGF1α in healthy Malaysian adults.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    J Nutr. 2015 Jul 15.

    Dietary Fat Intake Is Differentially Associated with Risk of Paroxysmal Compared with Sustained Atrial Fibrillation in Women.

    BACKGROUND: Dietary fats have effects on biological pathways that may influence the development and maintenance of atrial fibrillation (AF). However, associations between n-3 (ω-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids and AF are inconsistent, and data on other dietary fats and AF risk are sparse.

    OBJECTIVE: We examined the association between dietary fatty acid (FA) subclasses and risk of incident AF and whether these associations differed for sustained and paroxysmal AF.

    METHODS: We conducted a prospective cohort study in 33,665 women ≥45 y old without cardiovascular disease (CVD) and AF at baseline in 1993. Fat intake was estimated from food frequency questionnaires at baseline and in 2004. Incident AF was confirmed by medical records through October 2013. AF patterns were classified according to the most sustained form of AF within 2 y of diagnosis. Cox proportional hazards models with the use of a competing risk model approach estimated the RR.

    RESULTS: Over 19.2 y, 1441 cases of incident AF (929 paroxysmal and 467 persistent/chronic) were confirmed. Intake of total fat and FA subclasses was not associated with risk of AF. Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) were differentially associated with AF patterns. The RR for a 5% increment of energy from SFAs was 1.47 (95% CI: 1.04, 2.09) for persistent/chronic and 0.85 (95% CI: 0.66, 1.08) for paroxysmal AF (P-difference = 0.01). For MUFAs, the RR for a 5% increment was 0.67 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.98) for persistent/chronic and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.78, 1.34) for paroxysmal AF, although the difference between patterns was not significant (P-difference = 0.07).

    CONCLUSIONS: Dietary fat was not associated with risk of incident AF in women without established CVD or AF. High SFA and low MUFA intake was associated with greater risk of persistent or chronic, but not paroxysmal, AF. Improving dietary fat quality may play a role in the prevention of sustained forms of AF.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    BMC Genomics. 2015 Jul 8;16:509.

    Proteome from patients with metabolic syndrome is regulated by quantity and quality of dietary lipids.

    BACKGROUND: Metabolic syndrome is a multi-component disorder associated to a high risk of cardiovascular disease. Its etiology is the result of a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors, including dietary habits. We aimed to identify the target proteins modulated by the long-term consumption of four diets differing in the quality and quantity of lipids in the whole proteome of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC).

    RESULTS: A randomized, controlled trial conducted within the LIPGENE study assigned 24 MetS patients for 12 weeks each to 1 of 4 diets: a) high-saturated fatty acid (HSFA), b) high-monounsaturated fatty acid (HMUFA), c) low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diets supplemented with placebo (LFHCC) and d) low-fat, high-complex carbohydrate diets supplemented with long chain (LC) n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) (LFHCC n-3). We analyzed the changes induced in the proteome of both nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions of PBMC using 2-D proteomic analysis. Sixty-seven proteins were differentially expressed after the long-term consumption of the four diets. The HSFA diet induced the expression of proteins responding to oxidative stress, degradation of ubiquitinated proteins and DNA repair. However, HMUFA, LFHCC and LFHCC n-3 diets down-regulated pro-inflammatory and oxidative stress-related proteins and DNA repairing proteins.

    CONCLUSION: The long-term consumption of HSFA, compared to HMUFA, LFHCC and LFHCC n-3, seems to increase the cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, such as inflammation and oxidative stress, and seem lead to DNA damage as a consequence of high oxidative stress.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Updated 08/03/15:


    Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):40-8.

    Replacement of saturated with unsaturated fats had no impact on vascular function but beneficial effects on lipid biomarkers, E-selectin, and blood pressure: results from the randomized, controlled Dietary Intervention and VAScular function (DIVAS) study.

    BACKGROUND: Public health strategies to lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk involve reducing dietary saturated fatty acid (SFA) intake to ≤10% of total energy (%TE). However, the optimal type of replacement fat is unclear.

    OBJECTIVE: We investigated the substitution of 9.5-9.6%TE dietary SFAs with either monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) or n-6 (ω-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on vascular function and other CVD risk factors.

    DESIGN: In a randomized, controlled, single-blind, parallel-group dietary intervention, 195 men and women aged 21-60 y from the United Kingdom with moderate CVD risk (≥50% above the population mean) followed one of three 16-wk isoenergetic diets (%TE target compositions, total fat:SFA:MUFA:n-6 PUFA) that were rich in SFAs (36:17:11:4, n = 65), MUFAs (36:9:19:4, n = 64), or n-6 PUFAs (36:9:13:10, n = 66). The primary outcome measure was flow-mediated dilatation; secondary outcome measures included fasting serum lipids, microvascular reactivity, arterial stiffness, ambulatory blood pressure, and markers of insulin resistance, inflammation, and endothelial activation.

    RESULTS: Replacing SFAs with MUFAs or n-6 PUFAs did not affect the percentage of flow-mediated dilatation (primary endpoint) or other measures of vascular reactivity. Of the secondary outcome measures, substitution of SFAs with MUFAs attenuated the increase in night systolic blood pressure (-4.9 mm Hg, P = 0.019) and reduced E-selectin (-7.8%, P = 0.012). Replacement with MUFAs or n-6 PUFAs lowered fasting serum total cholesterol (-8.4% and -9.2%, respectively), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (-11.3% and -13.6%), and total cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio (-5.6% and -8.5%) (P ≤ 0.001). These changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol equate to an estimated 17-20% reduction in CVD mortality.

    CONCLUSIONS: Substitution of 9.5-9.6%TE dietary SFAs with either MUFAs or n-6 PUFAs did not significantly affect the percentage of flow-mediated dilatation or other measures of vascular function. However, the beneficial effects on serum lipid biomarkers, blood pressure, and E-selectin offer a potential public health strategy for CVD risk reduction.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 08/06/15:


    Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jul 30:1-7.

    Exclusive olive oil consumption has a protective effect on coronary artery disease; overview of the THISEAS study.

    OBJECTIVE: The aims of the current report are to present the demographic characteristics, clinical characteristics/biochemical indices and lifestyle habits of the population and to explore the potential association of exclusive olive oil consumption, in relation to lifestyle factors, with coronary artery disease risk.

    DESIGN: Demographic, lifestyle, dietary and biochemical variables were recorded. Logistic regression analysis was performed in order to estimate the relative risks of developing coronary artery disease.

    SETTING: The Hellenic study of Interactions between Single nucleotide polymorphisms and Eating in Atherosclerosis Susceptibility (THISEAS), a medical centre-based case-control study conducted in Greek adults.

    SUBJECTS: We consecutively enrolled 1221 adult patients with coronary artery disease and 1344 adult controls.

    RESULTS: A higher prevalence of the conventional established risk factors was observed in cases than in controls. Physical activity level was higher in controls (1·4 (sd 0·2) than in cases (1·3 (sd 0·3); P<0·001). Regarding current and ex-smokers, the case group reported almost double the pack-years of the control group (54·6 (sd 42·8) v. 28·3 (sd 26·3), respectively; P<0·001). Exclusive olive oil consumption was associated with 37 % lower likelihood of developing coronary artery disease, even after taking into account adherence to the Mediterranean diet (OR=0·63; 95 % CI 0·42, 0·93; P=0·02).

    CONCLUSIONS: Exclusive olive oil consumption was associated with lower risk of coronary artery disease, even after adjusting for adoption of an overall healthy dietary pattern such as the Mediterranean diet.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 06/13/16:


    Clin Nutr. 2016 May 28.

    Extra virgin olive oil improves post-prandial glycemic and lipid profile in patients with impaired fasting glucose.

    BACKGROUND & AIMS: Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) improves post-prandial glycaemia in healthy subjects but it has never been investigated if this can be detected in pre-diabetic patients. We investigated if EVOO affects post-prandial glucose and lipid profile in patients with impaired fasting glucose (IFG).

    METHODS: Thirty IFG patients were randomly allocated to a meal containing or not 10 g of EVOO in a cross-over design. Before, 60 min and 120 min after lunch a blood sample was taken to measure glucose, insulin, Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1), dipeptidyl-peptidase-4 (DPP4) activity, triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and Apo B-48.

    RESULTS: The meal containing EVOO was associated with a reduction of glucose (p = 0.009) and DPP4 activity (p < 0.001) and a significant increase of insulin (p < 0.001) and GLP-1 (p < 0.001) compared with the meal without EVOO. Furthermore, the meal containing EVOO showed a significant decrease of triglycerides (p = 0.002) and Apo B-48 (p = 0.002) compared with the meal without EVOO. Total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels did not significantly change between the two groups. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to show that in IFG patients EVOO improves post-prandial glucose and lipid profile with a mechanism probably related to incretin up-regulation. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 06/28/16:


    J Endocrinol Invest. 2016 Jun 25.

    Consumption of extra-virgin olive oil rich in phenolic compounds improves metabolic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a possible involvement of reduced levels of circulating visfatin.

    AIM: Phenolic compounds naturally contained in extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The present study aimed at evaluating the effects of a polyphenol-rich extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (high-polyphenol EVOO, HP-EVOO) on the metabolic control and the production of specific pro-/anti-inflammatory adipokines in overweight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D).

    METHODS: Eleven overweight T2D patients not in treatment with insulin were invited to follow their habitual diet for a total of 8 weeks. During the first 4 weeks (wash-out period), they were asked to consume refined olive oil (ROO, polyphenols not detectable) and then to replace ROO with HP-EVOO (25 mL/day, 577 mg of phenolic compounds/kg) for the remaining 4 weeks. Anthropometric parameters, fasting glycaemia, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), high-sensitive C-reactive protein, plasma lipid profile, liver function and serum levels of TNF-α, IL-6, adiponectin, visfatin and apelin were assessed at the end of each 4-week period.

    RESULTS: HP-EVOO consumption significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose (P = 0.023) and HbA1c (P = 0.039) levels as well as BMI (P = 0.012) and body weight (P = 0.012). HP-EVOO ingestion determined a reduction in serum level of aspartate aminotransferase (AST, P = 0.0056) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT, P = 0.024). Serum visfatin levels strongly decreased after HP-EVOO ingestion (P = 0.0021).

    CONCLUSIONS: Daily consumption of polyphenol-rich EVOO might improve metabolic control and circulating inflammatory adipokines profile in overweight T2D patients.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 07/28/16:


    Biol Res Nurs. 2016 Jul 21.

    Extra Virgin Olive Oil Improves Oxidative Stress, Functional Capacity, and Health-Related Psychological Status in Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Preliminary Study.

    OBJECTIVES: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic disease that imposes physical, psychological, and social limitations. We have reported that oxidative stress may play a role in the pathophysiology of FM. Olive oil has been shown to be effective treatment against the oxidative stress associated with several diseases. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of olive oil on oxidative stress and health-related parameters in FM.

    METHODS: This preliminary study was performed on blood samples of 23 women diagnosed with FM who consumed 50 ml of organic olive oil daily for 3 weeks. Subjects were randomized into two groups: one ingested extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and the other refined olive oil (ROO), which have different antioxidant content. The patients’ oxidative (lipid, protein, and DNA oxidation) and antioxidative (antioxidant enzyme activities and compounds) profiles were examined before and after the treatment period. Functional capacity and physical and mental health status were assessed using the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and the Physical Component (PCS-12) and Mental Component Summaries (MCS-12) of the Short Form-12 Health Survey, respectively.

    RESULTS: Significant differences were found in pre-post change between the EVOO and ROO groups for protein carbonyls, lipid peroxidation, and FIQ and MCS-12 scores. Differences between groups approached statistical significance for oxidative DNA damage and levels of the antioxidant compound zinc.

    CONCLUSIONS: EVOO may protect women with FM against oxidative stress in addition to improving functional capacity and health-related psychological status. Findings suggest that olive oil may be a valuable therapeutic support in FM.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 09/15/16:


    J Med Food. 2016 Sep;19(9):895-898.

    Camellia Oil-Enriched Diet Attenuates Oxidative Stress and Inflammatory Markers in Hypercholesterolemic Subjects.

    Camellia oil is commonly used as an adjuvant in medicine. It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and phytochemicals. The objective of this study was to examine effects of camellia oil consumption on oxidative stress, low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) oxidation, and inflammatory markers in hypercholesterolemic subjects. The study design was a randomized, single-blind controlled trial. Women with hypercholesterolemia (n = 50) were randomly divided into two groups. The treatment group (n = 25) was provided camellia oil-enriched diets and the control group (n = 25) was provided diets cooked with soybean oil three meals (45 mL oil) a day for 8 weeks. Biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines were assessed before and the after intervention. Camellia oil consumption significantly decreased malondialdehyde (11.2%; P < .001) whereas glutathione was not changed (P = .382). Moreover, the camellia oil group exhibited a statistically significant decrease in oxidized LDL-C (8.7%; P < .001) compared with the control group. Furthermore, camellia oil consumption significantly decreased high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (12.3%; P < .001) whereas tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6 were not different (P = .079; P = .660, respectively) compared with the control group. These data indicate that the consumption of camellia oil-enriched diet could decrease oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in hypercholesterolemic women. Therefore, camellia oil consumption may reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors. Be well! JP

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