Muffins without Saturated Fats Benefit Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) Patients, New Study Shows


A new study shows that metabolic management muffins might mitigate Metabolic syndrome but miss major markers. “Metabolic syndrome” (metS) is a collection of symptoms that, when they occur together, increase the risk of developing type two diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Since about a third of adults in the United States have metS, there is a large public health interest in finding ways to help people who show signs of the syndrome to mitigate their level of risk.

One of the lifestyle adjustments often recommended is to replace saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats. However, it is not as clear whether substitutes with more polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) or monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) produced better results. To that end, the USDA has created two competing muffin recipes and tested their effects.

The MUFA/PUFA Muffin Study: Summary

  • 39 participants with metS were used in the study
  • Participants were placed on a diet recommended by the American Heart Association but also ate three MUFA or PUFA-enriched muffins depending on the test group
  • Measurements of triglyceride levels, blood pressure, flow mediated dilation (ability of an artery to dilate), total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, glucose, and inflammatory protein levels were taken at baseline and after six months had passed
  • Both muffin types were associated with weight loss, but PUFA muffins were also linked to reduced triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and improved flow mediated dilation
  • No effect was observed on other measured traits
  • Overall, 25% (4 out of 16) of those assigned to PUFA muffins and 13% (3 of 23) of those assigned to MUFA muffins lost the classification of metabolic syndrome by the end of the study

What This Means

The findings suggest that making PUFA the unsaturated fat of choice may better improve risk reductions among those with metabolic syndrome, but this conclusion comes with several distinct caveats. First, although the PUFA muffin group showed better blood pressure, arterial, and triglyceride improvements, these changes were independent of the weight loss both groups achieved.

Additionally, there is no meaningful difference between the number of those in the PUFA and MUFA who lost the metabolic syndrome diagnosis (four versus three). Unfortunately, the low numbers of participants in each group make understanding this effect almost impossible since even slight changes in the numbers would produce a magnified impact on the statistical calculations. Not helping matters is the lack of a control group without muffins, making identifying trends all the more difficult.

Bottom Line

  • A good first step but with such a small pool of participants and no control group it is hard to understand how significant the results are or whether they truly mean what the study concludes in the PUFA/MUFA decision


Miller, M., et. al., “Poly is more effective than monounsaturated fat for dietary management in the metabolic syndrome: The muffin study,” Journal of Clinical Lipidology, 2016;