Vegetable and nut oils could help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on March 25, 2016

Replacing saturated fat in your diet with polyunsaturated fat, found in foods such as vegetable oils or nuts could help to combat the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The major piece of research by a team at King’s College London is the first to consider the differing effects of dietary fats on people with prediabetes who are considered at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Previous evidence has shown that prediabetes can be split into two distinct conditions, one in which the liver produces too much glucose and one in which glucose is not taken up properly by the muscles.


This study also considers the distinct paths of diabetes development compared with previous studies which have predominantly used “full blown” diabetes as the measure of progression for the condition.

Currently, weight loss is regarded as the most effective way to prevent the progression of diabetes in patients with prediabetes but researchers examined whether a targeted dietary intervention could have additional impact for patients alongside a weight loss programme.

Scientists tested small groups of people across a wide spectrum of glucose levels including healthy (15) athletic (14), and obese (23) people, and people with prediabetes (10) or type 2 diabetes (11) using robust analysis of glucose levels and fatty acids in their blood.

Participants’ diets were evaluated using a dietary questionnaire and the results showed that where glucose uptake into muscles is impaired, replacing saturated fats in the diet with polyunsaturated fats had a beneficial effect in slowing the development of diabetes. It is thought that this is because polyunsaturated fats promote uptake of glucose by the insulin receptors in the muscles.

In people whose livers were producing too much glucose, reducing saturated fat was found to be linked to slower progress of diabetes but replacing it with polyunsaturated fat was found to have no effect.

“The findings suggest that increasing dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats may have a beneficial effect for patients with a certain type of prediabetes,” said lead author, Dr Nicola Guess of the Division of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London.

“But it also illuminates why certain dietary changes may have no effect on progression of type 2 diabetes in the other subtype. We intend to build on this work with larger studies, and ultimately test this idea in a randomised trial,” she added.

She pointed out that there were limitations of the study included the small number of participants in each group and the overall small sample size of the study. The cross sectional design of the study also means the authors cannot confirm causality, i.e. a cause and effect.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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