Body Composition

Below are abstracts and links to a selection of peer reviewed scientific publications on MUFA and Body Composition.

1. Krishnan, S., & Cooper, J. A. (2014). Effect of dietary fatty acid composition on substrate utilization and body weight maintenance in humansEuropean Journal of Nutrition, 53(3), 691–710.


BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: Dietary fat content is a primary factor associated with the increase in global obesity rates. There is a delay in achieving fat balance following exposure to a high-fat (HF) diet (≥ 40% of total energy from fat) and fat balance is closely linked to energy balance. Exercise has been shown to improve this rate of adaptation to a HF diet. Recently, however, the role of dietary fatty acid composition on energy and macronutrient balance has come into question.

METHODS: We chose studies that compared monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and saturated fatty acids (SFA). We have reviewed studies that measured diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), energy expenditure (EE), or fat oxidation (FOx) in response to a HF meal challenge, or long-term dietary intervention comparing these fatty acids.

RESULTS: While single-meal studies show that SFA induce lower DIT and FOx compared to unsaturated fats, the effect of the degree of unsaturation (MUFA vs. PUFA) appears to yet be determined. Long-term dietary interventions also support the notion that unsaturated fats induce greater EE, DIT, and/or FOx versus SFA and that a high MUFA diet induces more weight loss compared to a high SFA diet. Sex and BMI status also affect the metabolic responses to different fatty acids; however, more research in these areas is warranted.


SFA are likely more obesigenic than MUFA, and PUFA. The unsaturated fats appear to be more metabolically beneficial, specifically MUFA ≥ PUFA > SFA, as evidenced by the higher DIT and FOx following HF meals or diets.

2. Schwingshackl, L., Strasser, B., & Hoffmann, G. (2011). Effects of monounsaturated fatty acids on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 59(2-4), 176–186.

ABSTRACT The appropriate pattern of macronutrient distribution for dietary protocols aimed at treating or preventing obesity and its associated cardiovascular diseases is still a controversial topic of discussion. Recommendations considering a specific percentage or range for monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are rare. It was the aim of this study to analyze long-term, randomized, controlled dietary intervention trials and to investigate the effects of MUFA on the biomarkers of obesity and cardiovascular risk factors. Dietary regimens with a high amount of MUFA (>12%) were compared to those with ≤12%. The biomarkers taken into account were weight, waist circumference, fat mass, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triacylglycerols, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as C-reactive protein. A total of 12 studies met the inclusion criteria. Data analysis was performed using the Review Manager 5.0.25 software. Significant differences between high- and low-MUFA protocols could be observed with respect to fat mass [-1.94 kg (confidence interval -3.72, -0.17), p = 0.03], systolic blood pressure [-2.26 mm Hg (confidence interval -4.28, -0.25), p = 0.03] and diastolic blood pressure [-1.15 mm Hg (confidence interval -1.96, -0.34), p = 0.005] favoring the dietary protocols with >12% MUFA.

Therefore, MUFA might represent a useful tool in the design of dietary regimens for obesity and cardiovascular disease.

3. Paniagua, J., Gallego de la Sacristana, a, Romero, I., Vidal-Puig, a, Latre, J., Sanchez, E., … Perez-Jimenez, F. (2007). Monounsaturated Fat – Rich Diet Prevents Expression Induced by a Carbohydrate- Rich Diet in Insulin-Resistant SubjectsDiabetes Care, 30(7), 1717–1723.


OBJECTIVE: Central obesity is associated with insulin resistance through factors that are not fully understood. We studied the effects of three different isocaloric diets on body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and peripheral adiponectin gene expression.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Eleven volunteers, offspring of obese type 2 diabetic patients with abdominal fat deposition, were studied. These subjects were considered insulin resistant as indicated by Matsuda index values <4 after an oral glucose tolerance test, and they maintained A1C <6.5% without therapeutic intervention. All subjects underwent three dietary periods of 28 days each in a crossover design: 1) diet enriched in saturated fat (SAT), 2) diet rich in monounsaturated fat (MUFA) (Mediterranean diet), and 3) diet rich in carbohydrates (CHOs).

RESULTS: Weight, body composition, and resting energy expenditure remained unchanged during the three sequential dietary periods. Using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry we observed that when patients were fed a CHO-enriched diet, their fat mass was redistributed toward the abdominal depot, whereas periphery fat accumulation decreased compared with isocaloric MUFA-rich and high-SAT diets (ANOVA P < 0.05). Changes in fat deposition were associated with decreased postprandial mRNA adiponectin levels in peripheral adipose tissue and lower insulin sensitivity index values from a frequently sampled insulin-assisted intravenous glucose tolerance test in patients fed a CHO-rich diet compared with a MUFA-rich diet (ANOVA P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: An isocaloric MUFA-rich diet prevents central fat redistribution and the postprandial decrease in peripheral adiponectin gene expression and insulin resistance induced by a CHO-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects.

4. Kien, C. L., Bunn, J. Y., Tompkins, C. L., Dumas, J. a., Crain, K. I., Ebenstein, D. B., … Muoio, D. M. (2013). Substituting dietary monounsaturated fat for saturated fat is associated with increased daily physical activity and resting energy expenditure and with changes in moodAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4), 689–697.

ABSTRACT Background: The Western diet increases risk of metabolic disease. Objective: We determined whether lowering the ratio of SFAs to MUFAs in the Western diet would affect physical activity and en- ergy expenditure.

Design: With the use of a balanced design, 2 cohorts of 18 and 14 young adults were enrolled in separate randomized, double-masked, crossover trials that compared a 3-wk high–palmitic acid diet (HPA; similar to the Western diet fat composition) to a low–palmitic acid and high–oleic acid diet (HOA; similar to the Mediterranean diet fat composition). All foods were provided by the investigators, and the palmitic acid (PA):oleic acid (OA) ratio was manipulated by adding different oil blends to the same foods. In both cohorts, we assessed physical activity (monitored continuously by using accelerometry) and resting energy expenditure (REE). To gain insight into a possible mood disturbance that might explain changes in physical activity, the Profile of Mood States (POMS) was administered in cohort 2.

Results: Physical activity was higher during the HOA than during the HPA in 15 of 17 subjects in cohort 1 (P = 0.008) (mean: 12% higher; P = 0.003) and in 12 of 12 subjects in the second, confirmatory cohort (P = 0.005) (mean: 15% higher; P = 0.003). When the HOA was compared with the HPA, REE measured during the fed state was 3% higher for cohort 1 (P ,0.01), and REE was 4.5% higher in the fasted state for cohort 2 (P = 0.04). POMS testing showed that the anger-hostility score was significantly higher during the HPA (P = 0.007).

Conclusions: The replacement of dietary PA with OA was associated with increased physical activity and REE and less anger. Besides presumed effects on mitochondrial function (increased REE), the dietary PA:OA ratio appears to affect behavior. The second cohort was derived from a study that was registered at clinical trials. gov as R01DK082803.