Omega-3 fatty acids are recommended by endocrinologists as part of any diabetes management plan, owing to their ability to control diabetes-induced damage throughout the body. Their sister compound, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, have also been under the diabetes spotlight; but for all the wrong reasons.

However, a 2017 study led by researchers from The George Institute for Global Health, Australia have now proven that, contrary to their past reputation, Omega-6 fats might actually help prevent type 2 diabetes.

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The Research:

Spanning 10 different countries, the study followed 39,740 participants for multiple years. The study focused on two components of omega-6 fats: linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.

Levels of these acids were tested in the participants at the start of the study (baseline), as high blood levels of these acids were previously considered a diabetes health risk. None of the participants had been diagnosed for type 2 diabetes at the baseline, were generally healthy, and did not follow a specific diet.

The Results:

4,347 of the original 39,740 participants with low linoleic acid blood levels went on to develop diabetes at different points in life. In contrast, those participants with higher levels of the compound did not develop diabetes.

This led to the conclusion that high linoleic acid, or omega-6 fat content helped prevent diabetes development by significantly reducing the risk to 35%. Moreover, arachidonic acid levels presented no effect on increasing or decreasing the risk of diabetes.

Where Can You Get It?

Unlike most proteins, linoleic acid cannot be self-produced by the body and must be acquired from external food sources. Some of the most widely-available foods rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Sesame oil and seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soybean oil
  • Flaxseeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Corn oil
  • Walnuts

However, the AHA (American Heart Association) recommends adding only 5-10% of omega-6 fats to your daily caloric requirements, according to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines. However, these numbers may vary in different countries.

This is primarily due to the fact that omega-6 fats are still, despite their anti-diabetes status, fats. And since fat contributes approximately 9 calories per gram, continued excess consumption can lead to over-exceeding the daily caloric requirement, resulting in abdominal fat accumulation and obesity; a well-known diabetes contributor.

It’s Not WHAT You Eat, It’s HOW You Eat:

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats provide a wide variety of overall health benefits in addition to preventing diabetes complications, as well as the condition itself. However, considering their status as higher calorie fats, overall consumption should be controlled, and remain within daily dietary requirements.

Moreover, these fats can easily be obtained in plentiful amounts from natural resources. So, instead of getting a prescription for supplementation, include more whole foods containing omega-6 and omega-3 into your diet.

That being said, the nutritional field, like much of the medical sphere, is contradictory within itself. With continuously advancing technology and research tools, new studies are being published every day. What was once healthy may be proclaimed life-threatening and vice versa.

The best way to ensure a good, healthy diet, and sound bodily function, is by altering your eating patterns. Instead of entirely eliminating an ‘unhealthy’ food and overconsuming a ‘healthy’ one, try eating in moderation. With a few exceptions, no food is bad food; it’s how you eat it that matters.

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