A new 'functional' cooking oil made from a blend of tropical, olive, coconut and flaxseed oils, may soon offer relief to calorie-counters and cholesterol-watchers, according to Canadian researchers.
Peter Jones, a professor at McGill's School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition in Montreal, Canada, has completed two studies on a new blend of cooking oil that he claims enables people to improve their metabolism, lower their cholesterol and, in some cases, lose weight. Although the weight loss results were less promising for women.
During two clinical trials, conducted at Macdonald Campus' Mary Emily Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, Jones and his team tested an oil made of medium chain triglycerides (MCT) versus long chain triglycerides (LCT).
The MCT oil that Jones and his team designed for participants - labelled 'functional oil' - was composed of 67 per cent tropical oils, 13 per cent olive oil, 6 per cent coconut oil and 5 per cent flaxseed oil. The patent to the oil is held by biopharmaceutical company Forbes Medi-Tech, which says it is conducting more tests on the oil before bringing it to the supermarket shelves.
Trials were conducted over two periods of 27 days on men and women who were about 25 pounds overweight. Both trial periods were separated by washout intervals of four weeks.
The researchers said the participants ate a 'typical northern diet' during trials, meaning breakfasts could include everything from French toast with maple syrup and yoghurt, while dinners might consist of spaghetti with meat sauce, baguette, raw celery with carrots and a date square.
On the first and last day of each trial period, participants also underwent magnetic resonance imaging to obtain 40 cross-sectional images of their bodies to see where the fat was located. The researchers found that participants on a functional oil diet decreased their total body volume and upper body fat.
The way functional oil fights fat is simple said Jones. "It is directed towards the liver for combustion and burned as energy," he explained. "The oil is not stored in the body as fat and heightens the metabolism, which is key in maintaining a healthy body weight. There is also some provocative data suggesting that oils rich in MCT reduce appetite."
By combusting, rather than absorbing the functional oil, male participants lost an average of 1 pound over a month. "After consuming the functional oil over a year, a man could lose 1 pound per month or 12 pounds per year," said Jones, noting that while female participants experienced heightened metabolic rates, they did not experience any measurable reduction in body fat.
A major benefit, according to the researchers, of the functional oil for both sexes was a significant reduction in cholesterol levels. "The functional oil lowered cholesterol levels by over 13 per cent," Jones remarked. This is compared to olive oil which reduces cholesterol levels by 4.5 per cent and which until now was considered by the researchers as the best cholesterol fighting oil.
The McGill team also stressed out the difference between its functional oil and other tropical oils, which recent studies have suggested may clog arteries. Jones explains that the McGill-designed oil is beneficial because it contains phytosterols to keep cholesterol levels down, while ordinary tropical oils do not contain phytosterols. "Our participants experienced no side effects from our functional oil," he said. "Tropical oils, with phytosterols, are actually fat-busters."
He added that while past studies on tropical oil MCTs have been on animals, this study was the first to test MCTs on humans over a four-week, inpatient, randomised crossover controlled trial. This process, he claimed, allowed McGill researchers to be the first to examine the longer-term effects of consuming MCTs on metabolism.
Results of the study, which was funded by Forbes Medi-Tech and the Dairy Farmers of Canada, have been published in the International Journal of Obesity, the Journal of Nutrition, Obesity Research and Metabolism.