Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

A recent study examines the relationship between different types of dietary fat and patient incidence of type 2 diabetes to determine which fats may increase risk of type 2 diabetes for patients susceptible to cardiovascular problems.


Rising rates of type 2 diabetes (T2D) within the global population have presented a challenge to public health, as 415 million adults were reported to suffer from T2D in 2015. Scholars estimate that rate will increase to approximately 642 million by 2040. Previous studies have gathered evidence pertaining to various aspects of patients’ lifestyles that may contribute to T2D incidence, including diet, physical activity, weight, and smoking. However, little is known about the correlation, if any, between particular subtypes of dietary fat intake and the risk of T2D.

A new American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017) study highlights a longitudinal cohort analysis of 3349 Mediterranean individuals identified as high risk for cardiovascular disease from the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) study. This randomized PREDIMED trial recruited 7447 participants from October 2003 to June 2009, ranging in age from 55-80 years old (males) and 60-80 years old (females). The cohort study further excluded any individuals who had been diagnosed with T2D at the time of baseline data collection.

During yearly follow-ups, dietitians completed a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire during a face-to-face interview with the participant to determine the frequency of consumption for each specific food item. Statistical analysis of food frequency questionnaire findings involved categorizing subtypes of dietary fat and calculating correlations between monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), found in plant-based foods such as nuts and seeds, and saturated fatty acids (SFAs), whose sources include animal fat products like cheese and butter.

Results show that, over the course of 4.3 years of median follow-up, 266 cases of T2D were documented. Intake of animal fat products demonstrated a strong association with higher risk of T2D. Increase in SFA intake also had a strong correlation with T2D incidence, particularly with regards to SFA-rich food sources such as butter and cheese.

This study provides preliminary evidence in determining which fats may increase risk of type 2 diabetes (specifically in Mediterranean populations at risk of cardiovascular disease). Data adjustments for risk factors for cardiovascular disease present an increased risk of confounding results due to comorbidity of conditions. Further research may be required in order to separate the analyses and use more specific exclusionary criteria in future clinical trials. By conducting more in-depth research to identify subtypes of dietary fat which may significantly contribute toward T2D incidence, we will be better able to shape public health interventions and patient education efforts in the hopes of managing the global spread of T2D.


Written By: Jennifer Newton

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