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Trans Fats Increase, while Certain Polyunsaturated Fats Decrease Diabetes Risk

Trans Fats Increase, while Certain Polyunsaturated Fats Decrease Diabetes Risk

Harvard researchers report that trans or hydrogenated fats, the type of fat found in margarine, most processed foods, fast foods, snack foods, cookies, and cakes, can significantly raise a woman's risk of type 2 diabetes, while the polyunsaturated fats found in many of the World's Healthiest Foods including cold water fish, nuts and seeds, and certain vegetable oils, lowers her risk.

This recently published research by the Harvard School of Public Health examined the relationship between the types of fat consumed and a woman's risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The study, which began in 1980, followed 84,204 women aged 34-59, none of whom had diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at that time. During the 14 years of follow up, 2,507 cases of type 2 diabetes were documented.

When all the data was correlated, the results showed that:

  • a 2% increase in the amount of total calories consumed as trans fatty acids raised type 2 diabetes risk by 39%
  • a 5% increase in the amount of total calories from polyunsaturated fat lowered her risk by 37%
  • intake of total fat, saturated fat and monounsaturated fat found in nuts, seeds and avocados did not influence risk for type 2 diabetes

Persons with type 2 diabetes do not respond to insulin, the hormone that clears sugar from the blood after a meal and ushers it into cells throughout the body to use as energy. Insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells begin to ignore insulin's commands, is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. For insulin to do its job properly, the cell's outer membranes, which are primarily made from the fats provided by our diet, must be healthy and permeable. Trans fats make impermeable cell membranes, while the polyunsaturated fats found in cold water fish such as salmon, nuts and seeds, and flaxseed oil make membranes that are much more fluid and permeable.

According to the report, Americans consume about 3% of total calories from trans fat, which is produced when liquid fats such as oils are processed in order to render them solid at room temperature. Researchers concluded that consuming foods rich in healthful polyunsaturated fats instead of those that contain trans fats could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 40%.

For suggestions as to how to enjoy the World's Healthiest Foods whose healthful fats will lessen your risk of type 2 diabetes, click on the Recipe Assistant, select any of fish, nuts or seeds on the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all the World's Healthiest Foods' recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

Reference: Salmeron J, Hu FB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Rimm EB, Willett WC. Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am Jour Clin Nutr, June 2001;73(6)01-1002, 1019-1026

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