Trans fat increases risk of type 2 diabetes

June 12, 2001 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News

Trans fat increases risk of type 2 diabetes

For women, lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes may be as simple as eating more salmon and mackerel and passing on dessert, the results of a recent study suggest.

Researchers from Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts report that the type of fat found in cookies, cakes and other processed foods can raise a woman's risk of diabetes, while polyunsaturated fat in certain types of fish and vegetable oils appears to lower the risk. Substituting foods rich in trans fat (hydrogenated fats) with those that contain polyunsaturated fat could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 40%.

According to the report, Americans consume about 3% of total calories from trans fat, which is produced when liquid fat such as oil is processed in order to make it solid at room temperature. Stick margarine, for example, is a major source of trans fatty acids.

Results of the Harvard study show that intake of total fat, saturated fat and monounsaturated fat found in nuts, seeds and avocados did not influence diabetes risk. But a 2% increase in calories from trans fatty acids raised the risk by 39% and a 5% increase in calories from polyunsaturated fat lowered the risk by 37%. Intake of cholesterol was also associated with diabetes risk. An increase of just 24 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol raised the risk of diabetes by 12%. One egg contains roughly 200 mg of cholesterol.

The authors note that trans fatty acids and cholesterol probably do not cause diabetes. Rather, these types of fat might make women who are already susceptible to the disease, such as those with insulin resistance, more likely to be diagnosed. In other findings, women with high intakes of trans fat were more likely to smoke, less likely to exercise regularly, and had lower intakes of alcohol and folate, a B vitamin that may lower heart disease risk.

The study adds to an ongoing debate over the role of dietary fat in the development of type 2 diabetes. While excess body fat is known to contribute to the onset of diabetes, exactly how dietary fat influences insulin resistance and diabetes risk is not clear.

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