A new study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition reveals that taking a daily dose of safflower oil—about 1 2/3 teaspoons—might help keep heart disease at bay. The findings come from a study of obese, postmenopausal women who have type 2 diabetes and were given the safflower oil for 16 weeks.

Although the women didn't change anything else in their diet, they added the supplement to what they were already doing, after 16 weeks, the women had reduced belly fat, lower body mass index (BMI), and increased muscle tissue.

A second analysis of the study 18 months later also found that the safflower oil supplementation improved the women's good (HDL) cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation levels, although the women were still at an increased risk for heart disease. The benefit of taking the supplementation, said the researchers, could be in combining safflower oil with medications and other interventions to control their health problems.

Safflower oil contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), derived from plant sources and may be as beneficial for heart health as omega-3 fatty acids. How exactly safflower oil helps with controlling aspects of metabolic syndrome (a group of metabolic risk factors, including excessive fat tissue in and around the stomach, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and glucose intolerance) is unknown, but researchers think it may be through a mechanism that hasn't yet been identified.

Before taking any dietary supplement of safflower oil, check with your doctor to see if it could be beneficial to you.

Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can also help prevent heart disease, including:

  • Quitting smoking.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, and low in saturated fats such as red meat, coconut, and palm oils.
  • Eating beans and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon and mackerel.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for a BMI, which takes into account your height and weight in determining percentage of body fat, of lower than 25. A BMI of 25 and above are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Getting regular health screenings, including blood pressure, cholesterol level checks, and diabetes screening.

Medical News Today. "A Dose Of Safflower Oil Each Day Might Help Keep Heart Disease At Bay."

Mayo Clinic. "5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease."