Researchers at The Ohio State University found that men and women with higher linoleic acid levels tended to have less heart-threatening fat nestled between their vital organs, more lean body mass and less inflammation.
Risk of heart disease and diabetes may be lowered by a diet higher in a lipid found in grapeseed and other oils, but not in olive oil, a new study suggests.
And higher linoleic acid levels also meant lower likelihood of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
But there’s a catch. Low-cost cooking oils rich in linoleic acid have been disappearing from grocery shelves, fueled by industry’s push for plants that have been modified to produce oils higher in oleic acid.
These finding could have obvious implications in preventing heart disease and diabetes, but also could be important for older adults because higher lean body mass can contribute to a longer life with more independence, said Ohio State’s Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition who led the research.
Previous research found that taking linoleic acid supplements increased lean body mass and lowered fat in the midsection. As little as a teaspoon and a half was all it took, Belury said. The current study is the first study to examine linoleic acid alongside body composition and other health markers in people who hadn’t been given supplements or prescriptive diets, she said.
Because of previous research showing cardiovascular benefits of linoleic acid, the American Heart Association in 2009 recommended people take in at least 5 to 10 percent of their energy in the form of omega-6 fatty acids, which includes linoleic acid.
But U.S. consumption of linoleic acid is declining because of genetic modification of plants for food manufacturers seeking oils higher in oleic acid. There’s been a pronounced shift in the last five years, she said, and it is linked to the push against trans fats. When linoleic acid is made solid (hydrogenated) for processed foods, it is more likely to convert to trans fat than its oleic cousin.
So oils, notably safflower, sunflower and soybean, now routinely contain less linoleic acid – it often makes up less than 20 percent of the fatty acids in commonly purchased oils, based on food labels and confirmed by testing in her lab.
Grapeseed oil for now remains an excellent source of linoleic acid, which constitutes about 80 percent of its fatty acids, she said. Corn oil also remains a decent source.