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HomeHealth ConditionsDiabetesCan Omega-6 Fatty Acids Help Prevent Diabetes?

Can Omega-6 Fatty Acids Help Prevent Diabetes?

Researchers reviewed data from twenty prospective studies to analyze the relationship between omega-6 fatty acids and type 2 diabetes.

Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are found in nuts, seeds, and edible oils (such as most vegetable oils). They play an important role in growth and development. Certain clinical guidelines, such as the American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend including omega-6 fatty acids as part of healthy eating habits and in the management of heart health. However, there is some research that suggests that these fatty acids may also have some harmful effects. The potential benefits of omega-6 fatty acids in type 2 diabetes is the focus of a recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The researchers examined the relationship between linoleic acid or arachidonic acid, two principal omega-6 fatty acids, and the development of type 2 diabetes. The research team collected data from twenty prospective studies conducted between 1970 and 2010. The studies included 39,740 participants between the ages of 49 and 76 years from ten countries including Iceland, the Netherlands, the USA, Taiwan, the UK, Germany, Finland, Australia, Sweden, and France. Participants with a baseline diagnosis of type 2 diabetes were excluded from the analysis.

The results showed that higher levels of linoleic acid reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes. Also, there was no significant association between arachidonic acid and the risk of type 2 diabetes. As there were only two types of omega-6 fatty acids analyzed, more studies are required to better understand the effects of other omega-6 fatty acids on type 2 diabetes.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes makes it necessary to explore all research avenues that may provide a means of preventing and managing this disease. This study indicates that these fatty acids could potentially assist in lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As linoleic acid can not be produced by the body, it requires a dietary source. Therefore, dietary guidelines should encourage the consumption of nuts, seeds, and edible oils.

Written by Anuolu Bank-Oni, Pharm.D, CDE, BCGP

Reference: Wu, JHY et al. Omega-6 fatty acid biomarkers and incident type 2 diabetes: pooled analysis of individual-level data for 39 740 adults from 20 prospective cohort studies. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol 2017; 5: 965–74. October 11, 2017

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