The MUFFIN study

Health & Wellness, Heart Health

The American Heart Association recommends that we reduce our intake of saturated fats to about 5% of total calories. In the past, when we’ve replaced sat fats with carbs, the result was usually weight gain. That’s because much of the carbs being replaced were “non-filling” simple sugars. If you’ve ever had a “low fat” cake, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s because without a feeling of “satiety” or sense of fullness, you can easily eat much of that cake in a single sitting! And those calories will add up quickly even though the number of calories per gram of carbs is much lower than for fat (4 versus 9 calories). That leaves us with replacing sat fat with more complex carbs such as fiber or replacing sat fat with other fats.

The idea for the MUFFIN came about when we realized that no study had directly compared fats enriched in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) such as olive oil with fats enriched in polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) such as safflower, sunflower and canola oil.

We contracted with USDA to prepare the MUFA and PUFA muffins for our study. These muffins were delicious and our participants consumed 3 MUFA or PUFA muffins daily.

After 6-months of the assigned diet, both groups lost weight with the PUFA participants losing 10 pounds on average compared to 5 pounds lost with MUFA. Assignment to PUFA was also associated with greater reductions in blood pressure and triglycerides than MUFA. Perhaps most importantly was that 1 in 4 PUFA subjects were no longer classified with the metabolic syndrome compared to 1 in 10 assigned to MUFA.

So why did PUFA subjects lose more weight than MUFA subjects? Recent studies suggest that PUFA contains a chemical compound that suppresses appetite. This chemical compound is present to a greater extent in PUFA than in MUFA or sat fat.

Bottom line: You can have your (PUFA) muffins and eat ’em too.

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