Fighting Belly Fat: Which Oil Is Best?

By David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center Director, Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital

Fighting Belly Fat: Which Oil Is Best?

Oil reduces friction and is the substance of choice for "greasing the skids" – both literal and figurative. So what could be more natural than using oil to grease the skids for weight loss? 

Thinking of this sort – along with a few small studies – may be what prompted the development of a product called SafSlim. The principal ingredient is safflower oil, and the contention is that safflower oil facilitates the mobilization of belly fat. 

Safflower oil is predominantly polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) come in several varieties. As a class, they have generally been associated with favorable health effects. Omega-3 PUFAs, in which we tend to be deficient, are clearly beneficial for most of us. They have anti-inflammatory effects and tend to have favorable effects on body fat deposition.

However, safflower oil is not a source of omega-3s. It is, instead, a source of omega-6 PUFAs. These, too, are essential, but if anything, we tend to get more than we need from the oils used in processed foods. Most omega-6s have pro-inflammatory effects, and generally do not have the favorable associations with weight control that the omega-3s have. 

If oil is going to be used in the fight against fat, the best choice would almost certainly be olive oil. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), the mainstay of the famous Mediterranean diet. Numerous large, long-term studies have demonstrated a powerful association between relatively high dietary intake of MUFAs, and reduced risk of abdominal obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Perhaps the final word on this topic is that while some kinds of abdominal fat can be particularly dangerous, there tends to be a silver lining. Abdominal fat tends to mobilize first when a meaningful weight-loss effort is made. In other words, the best and most reliable way to reduce harmful belly fat is simply to eat well and exercise.

If I were using oil to grease the skids for losing belly fat, my top picks would be omega-3 oils from fish, krill, seafood, algae, flaxseeds and/or walnuts, olive oil and canola oil, which is a source of both MUFAs and omega-3s. 

But I would place an even greater emphasis on a different kind of oil altogether: elbow grease!

4 Steps to Shedding Your Pandemic Pounds

Forgive yourself, and start walking toward a healthier you.

For those of you who have put on the Pandemic Pounds or added several new COVID Curves, you are not alone. Alarmingly, the American Psychological Association has recently published that almost half of all adults in their survey now have a larger physique. In fact, 42% of people reported gaining roughly 15 pounds (the average published was surprisingly 29 pounds but that included outliers) over the past year. Interestingly, 20% of adults in this survey lost about 12 pounds (I am surely not in this group). Clearly, there is a relationship between stress and weight change. In addition, one in four adults disclosed an increase in alcohol consumption, and 67% of participants distressingly revealed that they have new sleeping patterns.

This past year has brought about what has been called the 'new normal.' Social isolation and inactivity due to quarantining and remote working have sadly contributed to the decline in many people's mental and physical health, as demonstrated by the widespread changes in people's weight, alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns. Gym closures, frequent ordering of unhealthy takeout, and increased time at home cooking and devouring comfort foods have had a perceptible impact. In addition, many people have delayed routine medical care and screening tests over fear of contracting Covid-19 during these visits. Unfortunately, the 'new normal' has now placed too many people at risk for serious health consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

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