Saturated fats may not be all bad, latest diabetes research findings

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th May 2012

The findings of a new Swedish study, published this week, suggest that a diet high in saturated fatty acids could have a better effect on blood sugar levels and blood lipids than previously thought.

Results of the two-year dietary study, led by Hans Guldbrand, general practitioner, and Fredrik Nyström, professor of Internal Medicine at Linköping University are being published in the prestigious journal Diabetologia.

In the study, 61 patients with Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes were put into two groups where they followed either a low-carbohydrate (high fat) diet or a low-fat diet.

According to the study’s results, an increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or ‘good’ cholesterol, was observed in patients who had a larger portion of saturated fatty acids in their diet.

Reporting the new findings, Professor Nyström said, “In both groups, the participants lost approximately 4 kg on average.

“A clear improvement in the glycaemic control was seen in the patients on a high-fat diet after six months. Their average blood sugar level dropped from 58.5 to 53.7 mmol/mol (the unit for average blood glucose). This means that the intensity of the treatment for diabetes could also be reduced, and the amounts of insulin were lowered by 30 per cent.”

The study found no statistically certain improvements, either of the glycaemic controls or the lipoproteins, in the low-fat group, despite the weight loss.

People with Type 2 diabetes are usually advised to keep a low-fat diet.

Professor Nyström said, “You could ask yourself if it really is good to recommend a low-fat diet to patients with diabetes, if despite their weight loss they get neither better lipoproteins nor blood glucose levels.”

Australian food law expert comments on latest study findings

Commenting on the study’s findings, Australian food industry lawyer Joe Lederman, from food law specialists FoodLegal, told Australian Food News food policy regulators need to take note that this is not the first time such findings have been reported.

Mr Lederman who emphasised he is a lawyer and not a medical practitioner, said, “Government regulators should be careful not to take an over-simplistic approach in relation to food nutrient profiling for health claims or in relation to traffic light labels”.

According to Mr Lederman, “Some well-known cardiac nutritionists have previously expressed their expert opinions that different types of saturated fatty acids have differing health effects, not all of which have the same effect on cholesterol levels. For example, some nutritionists have pointed out that myristic acid and palmitic acid both elevate LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but other types of saturated fatty acids, such as lauric acid and stearic acid may show smaller impact on LDL cholesterol or the HDL/LDL ratio.”