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Researchers Say Foods with Trans Fats Up Type 2 Risk by 40 Percent in Women

| Sep 1, 2001

Choosing a diet that does not contain foods heavy in trans fats could reduce a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about 40 percent, say Harvard researchers. Also called hydrogenated oil, trans fats can be found in margarine, shortening, cookies, cakes and other processed foods. Hydrogenated oils are manipulated by science to stay hard at room temperature.

According to the June issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a good way to eliminate trans fats from your diet is to eat more polyunsaturated-fat-rich foods like salmon and mackeral, and less foods that contain trans fats.

Frank B. Hu, MD, and colleagues at Harvard University in Boston, reviewed medical and dietary data from more than 84,000 women aged 34 to 59 years who did not have diabetes, heart disease or cancer when the study began in 1980. At three points over the next 14 years, the researchers updated dietary information.

According to a June 6 Reuters Health report, results of the Harvard study showed that, "intake of total fat, saturated fat and monounsaturated fat found in nuts, seeds and avocados did not influence diabetes risk. But a two percent increase in calories from trans-fatty acids raised the risk by 39 percent and a five percent increase in calories from polyunsaturated fat lowered the risk by 37 percent."

Reuters also reported, "Intake of cholesterol was also associated with diabetes risk. An increase of just 24 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol raised the risk of diabetes by 12 percent. One egg contains roughly 200 mg of cholesterol."

Hu and colleagues note that trans fatty acids and cholesterol probably do not cause diabetes, but they might make women who are already susceptible to the disease, such as those with insulin resistance, more likely to be diagnosed.

Choose the Mediterranean-style Eating Pattern

In August 1999, Diabetes Health ran a feature article that illustrated the negative role trans fats play in the diabetic diet. Citing research from a 1997 issue of New England Journal of Medicine, it was noted that trans fats have been proven to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and contributes to the chance of having a heart attack.

Elizabeth Hiser, a dietitian, health writer and editor, discusses trans fats in her book "The Other Diabetes: Living and Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes."

"Whenever you see the word hydrogenated on an ingredient list," she says, "substitute the word saturated in your mind, because hydrogenated fats are artificially saturated."

Hiser uses this evidence to advocate the "Mediterranean-style eating pattern," with good fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil, which provide protection against omega-3 oil. Besides a healthy amount of good fats, he says, the Mediterranean diet includes lots of beans, vegetables and grains.

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