We all know that polyunsaturated fats are better for us than saturated fats. But beyond the obvious cardiovascular health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, is one type better for building muscle? Or does one type make you accumulate more fat? While both are calorically similar, a recent study suggests each type, saturated and polyunsaturated, is used in very different ways by the body and causes a distinctly different kind of weight gain.
Researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University recently completed a study of 39 young adult men and women of normal weight. Over a seven week period, each was fed 750 extra calories a day. Half consumed the extra calories in the form of high-fat content muffins made with sunflower oil (polyunsaturated) and the other half given muffins made with palm oil (saturated fat). Otherwise the participants’ diets consisted of the same amounts of carbs, sugar, protein and fat.
At the conclusion of the study, both groups had similar weight gains, however, those that gained weight consuming polyunsaturated fats gained more muscle mass, while those who gained weight consuming saturated fats gained much more fat in the abdomen, and particularly visceral fat around internal organs. Visceral fat around the liver is thought to be a key factor in the development of diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Overall, those who consumed the polyunsaturated fat gained three times as much muscle mass, while accumulating much less fat overall.
So it seems the good advice to incorporate healthy oils from sources such as olive oil, avocados and nuts into your diet just got better!