Certain Fatty Acids Increased Risk for Type 2 Diabetes in Women

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High intake of certain fatty acids increased type 2 diabetes risk in women.
High intake of certain fatty acids increased type 2 diabetes risk in women.

Women who consumed high amounts of total omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, regardless of BMI, according to new research.

“High consumption of omega-3 PUFAs was associated with a 26% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while the omega-6 PUFAs were not associated with the incidence of type 2 diabetes,” study researchers Guy Fagherazzi, PhD, and Courtney Dow, MPH, both from the Center of Research in Epidemiology and Public Health, Inserm, France, wrote in an email interview with Endocrinology Advisor

The results were presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 2016 Annual Meeting.

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Dr Fagherazzi and Dow noted that the incidence of type 2 diabetes is influenced by many modifiable risk factors, with diet being one of the most important. “However, focus has been placed heavily on carbohydrate consumption, though fats are responsible for a large part of energy intake and also have strong metabolic effects,” they said. “Fatty acids are required for normal growth and development, but preliminary evidence is suggesting that excessive intake of certain fatty acids may have negative health effects. As the evidence is sparse and controversial, we aimed to examine potential associations between the main dietary fatty acid group intakes and the incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

For the study, researchers enrolled 71 334 women (age, 40-65 years) from the E3N cohort who were recruited in France in 1990. Participants received self-administered questionnaires every 2 to 3 years, along with a validated food frequency questionnaire in 1993.

Results revealed an association between omega-3 PUFA consumption and type 2 diabetes risk, both before and after adjusting for confounders, such as fatty acid groups and BMI.  Among women with the highest consumption of omega-3 PUFAs, or the top third (>1.6 g per day), risk for developing type 2 diabetes increased by 26% compared with the lowest consumption group, or bottom third (<1.3 per day).

Researchers divided women into two groups — overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) and non-overweight (BMI <25 kg/m2) — and observed that total PUFA consumption yielded a positive association with diabetes in non-overweight women only, and that high omega-3 consumption led to an increased risk for diabetes in both overweight (19%) and non-overweight (38%) women compared with low consumption.

In further analysis, highest consumption of omega-3 PUFA docosapentaenoic acid (DPA; top third, ≥0.08 g/day) increased the risk for diabetes in both non-overweight (45%) and overweight (54%) women vs women in the bottom third group (<0.05 g/day). Similarly, the highest third consumption group of alpha-linolenic acid (≥1.14g/day) was associated with a 17% increased diabetes risk compared with the lowest third consumption group (<0.90g/day).

The researchers also noted that arachidonic acid (AA) was the only omega-6 fatty acid associated with increased risks for diabetes.

“The main source of both DPA and AA in our cohort was meat consumption,” Dr Fagherazzi and Dow noted. “As we often consume much more meat than nutritionally necessary, we believe that minimizing meat consumption, especially processed meat, could help to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

For more coverage of EASD 2016, click here.


  1. Dow C, Mangin M, Balkau B, et al. Poster 286. Fatty acid consumption and incident type 2 diabetes: evidence from the French E3N cohort study. Presented at: EASD 2016 Annual Meeting; September 12-16, 2016; Munich, Germany.
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