A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids could play a pivotal role in the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. A higher concentration of these fatty acids within the body could help reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the role of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (also known as n-6 fatty acids) in a number of diseases; they have been linked to the onset of breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis, but they also have anti-inflammatory properties. Normally found in vegetable oils, sunflower oil, nuts, and seeds, they are responsible for promoting growth after physical activity. Their importance in biological processes is well known (for example, initiating inflammatory responses) but their specific role in many diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes is a mystery.
The risk of Type 2 Diabetes has been linked to genetics, ageing, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and dietary factors, but it seems that n6 fatty acids may also play a role. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, n6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, could help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.
By conducting a 19 year study, researchers were able to determine if n6 fatty acids influenced Type 2 Diabetes onset. 2189 men from Finland were initially checked to ensure they were free of Type 2 Diabetes at the beginning of the study, and 19 years later they were re-examined to see how many developed Type 2 Diabetes and what levels of n6 fatty acids they had in their blood. It was found that high concentrations of certain n6 fatty acids (specifically linoleic acid and arachidonic acid) reduced the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 46%. However, higher concentrations of 2 other n6 fatty acids, γ-linoleic acid and dihomo- γ-linoleic acid, increased the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Researchers also found that the presence of zinc had a strong influence on whether the relationship between n6 fatty acids and Type 2 Diabetes risk was maintained. The relationship between high levels of arachidonic acid and reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes only occurred in low blood concentrations of zinc. High levels of γ-linoleic acid only increased the risk of Type 2 Diabetes when there was a high concentration of zinc.
Overall, this study, which supports the findings of previous reports before it, suggests that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be beneficial in reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Written by Alexandra Lostun, BSc