In a new study, researchers found replacing saturated fats with monosaturated fats in the diet may help treat diabetic neuropathy.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Michigan.
Neuropathy is the most prevalent complication of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and pre-diabetes.
The progression of neuropathy in pre-diabetic and T2D patients correlates with increased levels of saturated fat in blood.
Recent studies have shown that dietary replacement of saturated fats with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) improves the metabolic health of prediabetic and T2D patients.
However, the differential effect of dietary saturated fats and MUFAs on neuropathy is unknown.
In the study, the team examined the impact of saturated fats and MUFAs on nerve function.
Three groups of mice were fed diets with varying fatty acid composition from 6 to 24 weeks including a standard diet, a high-fat diet rich in saturated fats; and a high-fat diet rich in MUFAs.
The team found both high-fat diet and high fat diet-MUFA groups exhibited impaired glucose tolerance, increased body weight, and higher body fat mass.
Despite equivalent metabolic dysfunction in the two groups, the high-fat diet with MUFAs group showed fewer symptoms of neuropathy.
In parallel, nerve fiber density was strongly increased in the MUFAs group compared to the saturated diet group.
The findings show that the development of neuropathy is related to cell energy dysfunction induced by saturated fats.
Importantly, saturated-fat-induced nerve damage and cell energy dysfunction can be reversed by MUFAs.
This emphasizes the potential for MUFAs as a treatment for neuropathy in pre-diabetic and T2D patients.
The lead author of the study is Amy E. Rumora, Ph.D.
The study was presented at the American Neurological Association 2019 Annual Meeting.
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