As the number of people with type 2 diabetes soared to 8.8 percent of the population by 2017, a growing public health movement has sought to know if tailoring dietary recommendations to specific genetic profiles might help reduce the risk of the disease in susceptible individuals. A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has now found that the quality of dietary fat consumed and the genetic risk of diabetes work independently of each other, and that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats can be safely applied across the spectrum of type 2 diabetes genetic risk.
“Our meta-analysis shows on a scale never done before that there is no apparent need to be concerned about the genetic riskto inform sound dietary recommendations for individuals with type 2 diabetes,” says Jordi Merino, RD, Ph.D., of the MGH Diabetes Unit and Center for Genomic Medicine, and corresponding author of the study published online in the BMJ. “This means that lifestyle or dietary interventions for the prevention of type 2 diabetes can be deployed across all gradients of genetic risk since genetic burden does not seem to impede their effectiveness.”
Recommendations aimed at improving dietary quality have become an integral part of the worldwide public health effort to stem the rampant growth of diabetes. The MGH investigators found that irrespective of genetic risk, consuming more polyunsaturated fat (such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids) in place of refined starch and sugars is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while consuming more monounsaturated fat in place of carbohydrates is associated with a higher risk of the metabolic disease. In North America, monounsaturated fats typically derive from animal sources of food such as red meat, dairy and full-fat dairy products.