Eating muffins made with safflower oil may aid weight loss and improve cardiovascular health, a new study has determined.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, found replacing animal-based saturated fats for the plant-based polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), safflower oil resulted in greater weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and increased dilation of blood vessels.

Furthermore, 25% of those who ate the safflower oil muffins and had metabolic syndrome (MetS), were found after the study to be metabolically normal.

These findings, which took place at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSM), suggest safflower may reduce cardiometabolic risk in patients with MetS.

Safflower oil (high-oleic sunflower oil) is extracted from the seeds of the safflower for the commercial cultivation of vegetable oil. Safflower seed oil is flavourless and colourless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil.

In the six-month study, the team from UMSM enrolled 39 participants with metabolic syndrome. Each subject’s weight had been stabilised on a special diet for one to two months prior to enrolment.

These subjects were then asked to consume either three muffins either enriched with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) or with safflower daily, with additional supplementation as required, to ensure a 25%-50% increase in dietary fat intake from them.

During the study, participants were encouraged to exercise by walking at least three days a week for 30-45 minutes.

Dr Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and lead author of the study, said:“PUFA may be the choice for saturated fat for those who are overweight, have hypertension, diabetes, or the metabolic syndrome."

Recent data suggests PUFA (but not MUFA) activates signalling in the brain to reduce appetite, which may be one reason for the bigger weight drop between the groups.