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2012-06-29

No-Fat Salad Dressings May Promote Nutrient Deficiencies

Unquestionably, it should be common knowledge by now that vegetables are full of important vitamins and nutrients, but a new study suggests you won’t absorb much of those beneficial compounds without consuming the right type of fat at the same time.

Now this may not be so new if you've read media coverage on this study last week. I saw this study the day it came out, but scheduled this post a week later since I had other posts lined up. Luck had it that mass media picked up this study, so for this post, it appears I'm out of the gate late. But in case you missed it...

In this human clinical trial, researchers fed subjects salads with dressing containing either saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fat and tested their blood for the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, specifically a group called carotenoids (such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin).

These carotenoids are associated with reduced risk of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, age-related macular degeneration, and cardiovascular disease.

The study confirms the results of another study I covered last year on what fats are best for absorbing vitamin D, and found that dressing rich in monounsaturated fat (e.g. olive oil) required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required larger amounts of fat to get the same absorption.

“If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings,” said the study’s lead author. “If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.”

In the study, 29 people ate salads dressed with butter (saturated fat), canola oil (monounsaturated fat), and corn oil (polyunsaturated fat). Each salad was served with 3 grams, 8 grams, or 20 grams of fat from dressing.

The corn oil (rich in polyunsaturated fat) was the most dependent on dose. The more fat on the salad, the more carotenoids the subjects absorbed. Butter (saturated fat) was also dose-dependent, but to a lesser degree.

With dressings rich in monounsaturated fat, such as canola and olive oil-based dressings, carotenoid absorption was just as good with 3 grams of fat as it was with 20 grams, suggesting that this fat source may be the preferred choice for those wanting to use as little dressing as possible (to reduce calories) but still want to absorb as much of the health-promoting carotenoids from vegetables as possible.

So here we have another plus for the Mediterranean diet (rich in olive oil) and more insight as to why this diet may be so healthy.

Source: Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans

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