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Dietary fat consumption in the management of Type 2 diabetes

Evidence still supports reduction in saturated fat

Over the last few months, people with diabetes, dietitians and other healthcare professionals have raised specific concerns about the inconsistencies in the dietary information given to people with type 2 diabetes, particularly saturated fat*. In light of these concerns, Diabetes UK and the British Dietetic Association have appraised the evidence.

From the appraisal, it was concluded that there is no evidence that increasing saturated fat intake is beneficial in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

We also concluded that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) reduces the risk of CVD in general populations and in high-risk populations, including people with diabetes.

In addition, when saturated fat intake is replaced by carbohydrates (wholegrain and unrefined only), there is evidence for cardiovascular benefit. However, replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates, such as sugary drinks and white bread, appears to increase cardiovascular risk.

Diabetes UK and the British Dietetic Association are calling on healthcare professionals not to recommend diets that are high in saturated fats. It is important that any diet recommended for people with type 2 diabetes is based on evidence, and tailored to the individual. Therefore, diets such as low carb or Mediterranean diets, which are not high in saturated fats can continue to be recommended when appropriate.

Douglas Twenefour, dietitian and Deputy Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: “This latest review of the evidence supports our current advice for people with type 2 diabetes. We know that the best consensus of evidence supports a healthy diet that includes more vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, dairy, seafood, pulses, and nuts. People should be encouraged to reduce their intake of red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods, particularly sugar-sweetened drinks, and refined grains such as white bread.”

Although this statement specifically looked at the role of dietary fat consumption in people with type 2 diabetes, it is important to emphasise that the advice to reduce saturated fat intake also applies to people with Type 1 diabetes, and those without diabetes.

* Saturated fats are found in foods such as meat, butter, lard and ghee whilst unsaturated fats are found in sunflower, olive and rapeseed oil and spreads. However, saturated fats are not eaten in isolation; different foods contain different mixtures of fats, and saturated fats, and no food contains just one type of fat. 

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