Omega-6 fats may help prevent type 2 diabetes

October 11, 2017, George Institute for Global Health
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by eating a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, a new study suggests.

These findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, shed new light on the potential health benefits of omega-6, which is found in bean and seed oils such as soybean and sunflower oils and in nuts, and support clinical recommendations to increase dietary intake of omega-6 rich foods.

Lead author Dr Jason Wu, of The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, said: "Our findings suggest that a simple change in diet might protect people from developing type 2 diabetes which has reached alarming levels around the world."

"This is striking evidence," said senior author and Professor Dariush Mozaffarian, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "The people involved in the study were generally healthy and were not given specific guidance on what to eat. Yet those who had the highest levels of blood omega-6 markers had a much lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes."

Recent studies have raised concerns that omega-6 may have negative health effects, such as inflammation leading to the increased risk of chronic diseases.

Yet, when the global collaboration led by The George Institute explored these concerns in studies from around the world, they found that individuals who had the highest blood level of , the major omega-6 fat, were 35 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future than those who had the least amount.

Researchers analysed data from 20 studies involving 39,740 adults from 10 countries, in whom 4,347 new cases of diabetes occurred over time. These included adults with a wide range of ages and without any diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at the onset of the studies, when they were laboratory tested for levels of two key omega-6 markers - linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Linoleic acid was associated with lower risk, while levels of were not significantly associated with either higher or lower risk of diabetes.

"Some scientists have theorized that omega-6 is harmful to health," said Dr Wu. "But based on this large global study, we have demonstrated little evidence for harms, and indeed found that the major omega-6 fat is linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes."

Linoleic acid is not formed in the body and can only be obtained from the diet. US dietary guidelines recommend between 5-10 per cent of energy should be derived from polyunsaturated fats. "Based on concerns for harm, some countries recommend even lower intakes," said Dr Wu. "Our results suggest that eating foods rich in linoleic may lower risk of type 2 ."

This research combined many large observational studies, and therefore it could not directly determine the effect of raising omega-6 fat levels in a trial. The study's strengths include the use of objective blood or tissue biomarkers of fatty acids, that avoid memory errors associated with people's own impressions of their diet; that researchers developed a pre-specified standardized analysis protocol, which increases consistency of the findings; and that data from many countries around the world was included, enhancing the relevance to different populations.

Explore further: High serum omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes

Related Stories

High serum omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations linked to lower risk of type 2 diabetes

March 24, 2016
A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that high serum omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations are linked to a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The findings were published in the ...

Different types of PUFAs are associated with differential risks for type 2 diabetes

July 19, 2016
Different types of circulating polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are associated with differing future risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a large European study authored by Nita Forouhi of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at ...

Fish derived serum omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

January 14, 2014
High concentrations of serum long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a University of Eastern Finland study published recently in Diabetes Care. The sources of these fatty acids ...

Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may treat autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes

April 4, 2017
Type I diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune condition that develops after the immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic β cells, leading to impaired insulin production. Currently, no therapies can successfully reverse the ...

Polyunsaturated fat in adipose tissue linked to lower mortality

August 18, 2016
In a study from Uppsala University, published in the American journal JAMA Cardiology, the fatty acid linoleic acid (Omega 6) in subcutaneous adipose tissue was linked to lower mortality among older men followed over a 15-year ...

Omega 3 helps the gut stay healthy, study finds

September 11, 2017
Taking omega-3 as part of a healthy diet with plenty of fibre and probiotic foods can improve the diversity of the gut microbiome according to a new study by researchers at the University of Nottingham and King's College ...

Recommended for you

Genomic study brings us closer to precision medicine for type 2 diabetes

September 21, 2018
Most patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are treated with a "one-size-fits-all" protocol that is not tailored to each person's physiology and may leave many cases inadequately managed. A new study by scientists at the ...

High gluten diet in pregnancy linked to increased risk of diabetes in children

September 19, 2018
A high gluten intake by mothers during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of their child developing type 1 diabetes, suggests a study published by The BMJ today.

Anti-inflammatory protein promotes healthy gut bacteria to curb obesity

September 19, 2018
Scientists from the UNC School of Medicine discovered that the anti-inflammatory protein NLRP12 normally helps protect mice against obesity and insulin resistance when they are fed a high-fat diet. The researchers also reported ...

Study reveals the current rates of diagnosed type 1 and type 2 diabetes in American adults

September 18, 2018
A new study from the University of Iowa finds that type 2 diabetes remains overwhelmingly the most common type of diabetes diagnosed in American adults who have the disease.

Research reveals link between immunity, diabetes

September 14, 2018
When it comes to diet-induced obesity, your immune system is not always your friend.

BPA exposure in U.S.-approved levels may alter insulin response in non-diabetic adults

September 14, 2018
In a first study of its kind study, researchers have found that a common chemical consumers are exposed to several times a day may be altering insulin release. Results of the study, led by scientists at the University of ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Parsec
not rated yet Oct 11, 2017
This analysis certainly demonstrates correlation. Unfortunately, causation is a completely different issue. The case for increased omega-6 fatty acids to actually and directly cause a reduction in the probability of reduced type 2 diabetes is certainly neither demonstrated nor refuted by this study.

As an example how this could be, people who eat a lot of fish also probably eat a healthier diet than people who do not. Having a diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids would then correlate to better dietary practices, which are a much simpler and reasonable explanation for the observed reduction in diabetes 2 rates.

Just my 2 cents.
PPihkala
not rated yet Oct 12, 2017
Forgotten fact since 1800 has been that to lose weight, one has to increase fat consumption and reduce carbohydrates. Then around 1950 someone claimed that one must reduce fat to lose weight. And look where that lie has gotten us. Everything is filled with simple carbs and people are getting bigger than ever. Fat can not spike your blood sugar because it has no carbs (=sugar). So your liver will manufacture what is needed from that fat and your fat stores.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.