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Can Canola Oil Reduce Abdominal Fat?

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When you’re wanting to drop body fat you’re diet takes center stage. Not only do you need to reign in the calories but you’ve got to think about optimizing progress with the choice of foods too.

Previously, foods high in fat had always been considered bad for weight loss – they are high in calories and easy to overeat. But new research suggests that canola oil might be more useful for reducing fat mass than we’ve previously thought.

In this article we’ll break down the studies for you and tell you why you should be including this food in you diet.

What is Canola Oil?

This oil is made from the crushed seeds of the canola plant. They are first processed by gentle heating, and once they’ve been extracted, any fatty acids or solid leftovers are removed using refining processes.

Just under half of the seed is oil, the rest provides a pulp that can be used for animal feed. The leftover oil is commonly used in both baking and sautéing – it has a neutral taste and medium smoke point which makes it a versatile cooking aid. Not only can canola oil be used as a food, it can also provide non-food products such as candles, lipsticks and industrial lubricants.

Plant oils are typically high in fat – but dependent on the type and profile of fat, it can stimulate fatty acids to be used as energy, or instead store it as fat tissue.

Canola oil is high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), and provides a good source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also relatively high in oleic acid, or omega-9 – a fatty acid that has been linked to improve blood flow and blood glucose management. It is low in saturated fats and has only a moderate amount of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) [1].


What Does The Research Say?

Central obesity – a condition where fat accumulates around the middle section of the body – is strongly associated with insulin resistance, increased blood lipids and a host of inflammatory and metabolic risk factors. We often refer to this type of fat as androidor belly fat.

Oils rich in MUFAs have been shown to reduce central obesity and abdominal fat in a range of studies. It appears particularly useful when compared to other types of fats such as PUFAs.

For example, a study published in Metabolism [2] found that substituting a Western diet for a diet high in oleic acid helped participants to reduce their abdominal fat levels. The researchers found that the high oleic acid content of canola oil, helped the 22 female volunteers change their abdominal-hip fat ratios.

Likewise, another study [3] gave insulin resistant participants the same sequential total calorie eating plan, but each was enriched with different fats. The volunteers spent 28 days following each of the following diets:

  • Enriched with saturated fat
  • Enriched with MUFAs
  • Enriched with PUFAs

After the study had finished, both the MUFA and saturated fat diets had helped to reduce abdominal fat accumulation. They also helped to increase levels of adiponectin after each meal – a protein that regulates blood glucose levels and fight against artery disease.

These results were echoed in a short-term study by Kien et al [4], who reported that in comparison to palmitic acid – a type of saturated fatty acid – oleic acid fats helped volunteers drop more belly fat as well as improve vascular inflammation.

Finally, a very recent research paper published in the prestigious journal Obesity [5], found that a canola oil-rich diet reduced central adiposity by 3.1kg over a 4-week period. This was well correlated with a number of other health markers, including reduced blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels too.

The researchers concluded by suggesting that diets high in MUFA – in comparison to PUFA – were appropriate for those wanting to lose belly fat as well as manage metabolic illnesses such as diabetes and high cholesterol.



Canola oil is made from the seeds of the canola plant. It is a versatile food with a neutral taste that suits both baking and sautéing. It is high in monounsaturated fat (MUFA), and provides a good source of both omega-3, omega-6 fatty and omega-9 – otherwise known as oleic acid.

This oil has been shown to improve metabolic health by improving insulin resistance, and reduces inflammatory markers associated with vascular health risk.

Research shows that canola oil can decrease belly fat, particularly in comparison to other fats sources such as polyunsaturated or saturated fats. We’d recommend adding it to your diet – but only in moderation. Don’t forget that any fat source is high in calories, so it’s not a licence to eat as much as you can.

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  1. McDonald, BE et al. Comparison of the effect of canola oil and sunflower oil on plasma lipids and lipoproteins and on in vivo thromboxane A2 and prostacyclin production in healthy young men. Am J Clin Nutr 1989; 50: 1382-8
  2. Gillingham, LG et al. Effect of high-oleic canola and flaxseed oils on energy expenditure and body composition in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Metabolism. 2012; 61(11): 1598-605
  3. Paniaqua, JA et al. Monounsaturated fat-rich diet prevents central body fat distribution and decreases postprandial adiponectin expression induced by a carbohydrate-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects. Diabetes Care. 2007; 30(7): 1717-23
  4. Kien, CL et al. A lipidomics analysis of the relationship between dietary fatty acid composition and insulin sensitivity in young adults. Diabetes. 2013; 62(4): 1054-63
  5. Liu, X et al. Effects of canola and high-oleic-acid canola oils on abdominal fat mass in individuals with central obesity. Obesity. 24(11): 2261-2268