News article

Saturated fat increases diabetes risk

Posted:  Monday, March 31, 2014

A high intake of saturated fat, which is mainly found in animal products such as milk and red meat, has since the 1970s become known as the great culprit behind the high incidence of cardiovascular disease in the Western world. Recent studies have raised doubts about whether saturated fat really is so much unhealthier than other types of fat, and now a Swedish study adds more nuances to this debate: The study, published in the journal Diabetes, shows for the first time in humans that the type of fat consumed is critical to how excess energy is stored and whether or not we gain muscle mass.

"Most of us have a small calorie surplus over the course of a day, and that leads weight gain in the long term. This study shows that if the calorie surplus comes from saturated fat rather than polyunsaturated fat, the fat may be stored in a way that increases a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes," says Jørn Dyerberg, professor emeritus at the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen.

One piece in a large puzzle

The new study is one piece in a larger puzzle about nutrition, says Marianne Uhre Jakobsen, an associate professor at the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at Aarhus University. Like Dyerberg, Jakobsen did not take part in the Swedish study, but she was part of an evidence group that has examined the existing dietary guidelines, which advise us to eat less saturated fat.

Fat storage in the liver and around the intestines, and the lower insulin response in the saturated fat group, is associated with an increased risk of developing a number of lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

"The overall scientific picture suggests that we should eat less saturated fat than most of us do, but it is difficult to say what we should eat instead and which types of foods with saturated fat we should avoid," she says.

"Fat storage in the liver and around the intestines, and the lower insulin response in the saturated fat group, is associated with an increased risk of developing a number of lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes," says Dyerberg.

"Increased muscle mass, on the other hand, which the study found in the omega-6 group, prevents type 2 diabetes. This study therefore indicates that it may be a good idea to swap saturated fat with omega-6 fat from sunflower oil. This may be true in relation to type 2 diabetes, but if we look at the risk of cardiovascular disease, we might see a different picture."

Fredrik Rosqvist, David Iggman, Joel Kullberg, J Jonathan Cedernaes, Hans-Erik Johansson, Anders Larsson, Lars Johansson, Håkan Ahlström, Peter Arner, Ingrid Dahlman, and Ulf Risérus Overfeeding Polyunsaturated and Saturated Fat Causes Distinct Effects on Liver and Visceral Fat Accumulation in Humans Diabetes

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