UBCO assistant professor Sanjoy Ghosh.-Image credit: UBCO

UBC Okanagan research connects common fats to lazy lifestyle and diabetes

UBCO researchers say more work needs to be done but women are especially at risk.

A UBC Okanagan researcher is suggesting the types of cooking oils people, particularly women, consume may be sabotaging their efforts to stay healthy and avoid illnesses such as diabetes.

Sanjoy Ghosh, a Michael Smith Health Research Foundation Scholar and a professor UBCO’s Kelowna campus, recently published research that concludes a high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), but not monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), can lead to sedentary and lazy behaviour, especially in women .

Ghosh says not long ago, heart disease was supposedly caused by saturated fats—an idea that has become increasingly controversial in recent years. The thinking instigated the intentional removal of saturated fatty acids from many foods in favour of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Essentially, all fats in “convenience” foods, such as potato chips, energy bars, crackers and hamburgers use cooking oils like corn, sunflower and soybean and margarine. And they are all rich in MUFAs and PUFAs.

So, as a result of research, Ghosh now questions whether we can blame dietary fats—at least partially—for the physical inactivity that’s well documented in Canadian children and adults.

“Our study presents new ecological evidence that dietary PUFA is strongly associated with sedentary behavior among pre-teen girls and weakly associated with diabetes among adult women across Europe,” said Ghosh, who is recommending more trails and studies be done to confirm his findings.

Alarmingly, exposure to dietary PUFA can be identified early in life. In this analysis, a significant correlation was observed in sedentary behaviour of 11-year-old girls and PUFA in their diets.

Ghosh collaborated on his study with UBC biologist and data analyst Jason Pither, the first-author of the study, to examine data from 21 countries in Europe, specifically looking at pre-teen girls and then, in a second study, the blood glucose levels of adult women.

In putting details such as the amount of time each week spent watching TV along with other filters like a country’s per capital GDP, urbanization, and even latitude, they came out with what they see as a clear connection between the consumption of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and an increase in sedentary behaviour.

Such clinical findings come on the heels of a similar study from Ghosh’s lab in 2015 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, which provided the first indication that omega-6 PUFAs we eat makes mice lazy.

“This data is extremely significant,” said Ghosh. “Nobody has made this connection and it’s time for an intervention. And if someone is beginning an exercise program without taking a close look at the fats, especially PUFA they are consuming, or changing what they’re eating, then it might be doomed to failure.”

The research was recently published in the PLOSOne. Funding for the research was provided by the Egg Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Canadian Diabetes Association and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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