What is safflower
Made famous in recent times, this little yellowish-orange flower is native to the Middle East but nowadays is cultivated in parts of Europe and in the United States. Originally used for the manufacturing of pigments to fabrics and cosmetics, it has also been also used as spices in a variety of dishes, just like the saffron.
Today, the cultivation of Safflower is focused to its use in the making of supplements, like the CLA Safflower Oil and other products, which has several benefits to our health when compared to other sources of oil, such as soy and olive oil.
The safflower oil has two variants, the monounsaturated, rich in oleic acid (Omega-9) and the polyunsaturated, rich in linoleic acid (Omega-6). The main difference between the two is the resistance to high temperatures, with the Omega-9 variant being the most resistant, which makes it better suited for the preparation of hot and fried dishes. Besides that, the Omega-9 safflower oil has no smell, no color nor taste, which makes it perfect for culinary use.
Its Omega-6 variant, though less resistant to high temperatures, is an essential oil to our bodies, but must be acquired through food, as our body cannot produce it. The polyunsaturated oil must be kept in a sealed container, in a refrigerated environment, away from light sources, to prevent its oxidization, which consequently leads loss of its nutritional benefits.
Health benefits: What is it good for?
Many studies have shown that the daily ingestion of a moderate dose of safflower oil as a supplement can lead to improvements on health, like reduced muscle inflammation, reduced LDL cholesterol, and body fat, but there are many more.
Due to an elevated calorie count (1g of safflower oil contains about 9cal.), the consumption of it should be moderated, but to counterweight that, it is extremely rich in vitamin E, another vital nutrient to our body functions.
There are many benefits from both sources, and we are going to list five of them below.
CLA Safflower for Weight loss
The safflower oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, which stimulate our bodies to burn fat. Contrary to popular beliefs, the consumption of good fats in a balanced way is vital to weight loss diets, therefore, the consumption of safflower oil as a replacement of other types of fats can lead to an improved loss of weight.
Furthermore, the safflower oil can increase the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating the appetite, the mood, sexual activity, body temperature, perceptual and motor functions and reduces anxiety in the organism, conditions that lead to a lower consumption of calories and consequently less weight gain.
The safflower oil also decreases the accumulation of abdominal fat, which is a high-risk health factor, for it can lead to resistance to insulin, heart attack, chronic inflammation and even some types of cancer.
A study published by the University of Ohio¹ showed that the use in obese, postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes mellitus lead to a loss of adipose mass and gain of lean mass, significantly lowered fasting glucose and increased adiponectin, a protein involved in regulating glucose levels as well as fatty acid breakdown and also reduced the levels of sugar in the blood of the patients.
The study then concluded that “supplementation with these dietary oils may be beneficial for weight loss, glycemic control, or both”.
Another study², published in the Journal of Nutrition in 1979, using rats as subjects showed similar results, which were fed with homogeneous triglycerides composed of 18-carbon chain saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The rats that were fed the tristearin (saturated) had significantly fewer cholesterol absorptions than those fed with triolein or safflower oil (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). The conclusions of this study seem to agree with the previous one.
Cholesterol: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Though there is no ugly cholesterol, there are indeed, the good and the bad. Many people still confuse both and try to avoid at all costs their consumption. The good, High-density lipoprotein or HDL for short, is one of the major lipoproteins, which are responsible for carrying the lipids within our bodies, which lessens the deposit of lipids in our vessels, decreasing the chance of a heart attack.
The Low-density lipoprotein, LDL, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. The more LDL you have in your blood, more likely the chance of a heart attack becomes. Some evidence suggests that the safflower oil could increase the level of HDL while decreasing the level of LDL in the body simultaneously, though that it still must be confirmed by a proper study.
The consumption of safflower oil can improve our immunologic system through the supply of prostaglandins, lipids that are responsible for the biochemical signs that trigger the system’s response to microorganism invasion, for example, that our body cannot produce.
Hair and Skin benefits
The oleic acid present in the monounsaturated safflower oil improves the blood circulation, affecting the health of the scalp through the stimulation of the hair follicles, resulting in a faster and stronger growth and for this reason, it can be used in cosmetics, but the ingestion has the same effects.
Regarding the skin, the polyunsaturated variant does not obstruct the pores, hydrating the skin without causing acne. The vitamin E present in both oil variants helps to prevent wrinkles, slowing down the signs of aging and stimulating the generation of new skin cells that then heal scars faster, thus boosting the appearance of the skin.
Premenstrual Syndrome treatment
There is a patent for a treatment of premenstrual syndrome using safflower oil that considers its properties of regulation of serotonin and prostaglandins in women bodies that could help to alleviate the symptoms of the PMS and regulating the menstrual cycle, having the same effects as the hormonal supplements without the side effects.
Though the safflower oil has its good side, it also has some warnings that must be issued, which are as follow.
- People with hemorrhagic diseases, blood coagulation problems, gastrointestinal ulcer or that are going to undertake surgery procedures in the near future should avoid consuming safflower oil due to its anticoagulant properties.
- People that are allergic to sunflower, ragweed, daisy, carnation, chrysanthemum or other related plants should avoid consuming safflower oil due to the risk of severe allergic reaction.
- Pregnant women, for it, may cause uterine contractions and possibly birth.
- In order to achieve a better result, there are some recommendations from specialists regarding the consumption of safflower oil. They state that the proportion between the consumption of Omega-3 and Omega-6 should be between 5:1 and 10:1, that is, for every 1 Omega-6 sources that you consume, you should consume 5 or 10 sources of Omega-3 for a balanced diet. The polyunsaturated safflower oil is rich in Omega-6 and the suggestion is that you should include in your diet greasy fishes, such as salmon or tuna, walnuts, canola oil and/or green vegetables.
- Recommended daily consumption of safflower oil is up to 20g, but you should adequate the amount to your diet and energetic needs.