In a recent study, a group of Finland researchers finds that high serum omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
It has been speculated that a high intake of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may increase the risk of several chronic diseases.
This is because these fatty acids could promote low-grade inflammation.
Earlier research has linked linoleic acid, which is the most common omega-6 fatty acid, to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
However, scientific evidence relating to the health effects of other omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids is not as inconclusive.
In the study, the researchers examined the serum fatty acid concentrations of 2,189 men aged between 42 and 60 years.
All of the men had no type 2 diabetes diagnosis at the beginning of the study.
During a follow-up of 19 years, 417 men were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
The team found that high serum omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations were linked to a 46% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the follow-up.
However, when testing the effects of different types of omega-6 fatty acid, they found high serum gamma-linolenic and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid concentrations were linked to a higher risk of diabetes.
The researchers suggest that high serum linoleic and arachidonic acid concentrations are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The serum linoleic acid concentration is determined by the person’s diet, and the main sources of linoleic acid are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Arachidonic acid is present in meat and eggs; however, the human body can also make arachidonic acid from linoleic acid.
Gamma-linolenic acid and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid are mainly formed in the human body from linoleic acid.
Their concentrations in serum are very low in comparison to, for example, linoleic acid.
The association of gamma-linolenic acid and dihomo-γ-linolenic acid with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes has been observed in some earlier studies, but the underlying reason requires further research to find.
To summarize, this study suggests that polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids have a beneficial impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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