Diabetes Prevention Research: New Insight


Diabetes can be caused by multiple factors, but we still can take certain measures to lower the risks of developing diabetes. In a new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]), Finnish scientists suggest that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), derived primarily from fish in maternal diet during pregnancy or lactation, may help protect infants at high risk of type 1 diabetes (T1D) from developing the disease. Also, researchers from the University of Otago have found that a ‘home-grown’ naturally occurring probiotic reduces the risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and lowers fasting blood sugar.

Then how to effectively decrease risks of developing diabetes? The following article on the latest research findings might give you a hint.

【1】The Lancet Dia Endocrinol: Omega-6 fats may help prevent type 2 diabetes

Recently researchers of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney discovered that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be significantly reduced by eating a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. There relevant findings were published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. This research shed new light on the potential health benefits of omega-6, which is often found in bean and seed oils (such as soybean and sunflower oils) and in nuts. Hence, increase in dietary intake of omega-6 rich foods is clinically recommended.

The lead researcher Dr. Jason Wu said, “Our findings suggest that a simple change in diet might protect people from developing type 2 diabetes which has reached alarming levels around the world.” The people involved in the study were generally healthy and were not specifically guided as to what to eat. Yet it turns out that those who had the highest levels of blood omega-6 markers had a much lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes, despite the concerns raised by recent studies that omega-6 may have negative health effects, such as inflammation leading to the increased risk of chronic diseases.

Yet, individuals who had the highest blood level of linoleic acid- a major omega-6 fat- were 35% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future than those who had lower amount. In this article, researchers analyzed data from 20 studies involving 39,740 adults from 10 countries, in whom 4,347 new cases of diabetes occurred over time, including adults with a wide range of ages and without any diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at the onset of the studies.

【2】 BMJ: Statins may raise type 2 diabetes risk in susceptible individuals

A recent study suggests, long-term use of statins to lower blood fats and to ease cardiovascular disease might raise risks of developing type 2 diabetes in susceptible individuals, which is published in the online journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. The findings were based on 3234 participants in the experiment.

This long-term clinical trial observed whether modest weight loss through lifestyle changes or treatment with metformin could reduce or delay development of type 2 diabetes in people at high risk. In this trial, participants all received advice on healthy eating and exercise.

【3】Am J Epidemiol: Eating meat is linked to higher risk of diabetes

Compared with a meat-based diet, a plant-based diet is generally considered healthier in preventing the risk of diabetes. Not all meats affect the risk equally. According to professors from NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS), higher intake of red meat and poultry is associated with significantly increased risk of developing diabetes. This might be partially attributed to their higher content of heme iron in these meats. This study, published on American Journal of Epidemiology, recommend the Singapore population to take a plant-based diet to mitigate diabetes risk and therefore reduce the healthcare burden of chronic diseases.

To conduct this research, 63,257 adults aged 45-74 years old between 1993 and 1998 were recruited and followed up for an average of about 11 years. The study found a positive association between intakes of red meat and poultry, and risk of developing diabetes. Specifically, compared to those with lower quartile intake, those with higher quartile intake of red meat and poultry had an increase in risk of diabetes (23% and 15% respectively). However, the intake of fish was not associated with risk of diabetes.

In trying to understand the underlying mechanism for the role of red meat and poultry in developing diabetes, the study also investigated the association between dietary heme-iron content from all meats and the risk of diabetes, and found a dose-dependent positive association. After adjusting for heme-iron content in the diet, the red meat and diabetes association was still present, suggesting that other chemicals in red meat could be accountable for the increased risk of getting diabetes. Conversely, the association between poultry intake and diabetes risk became null, which suggests that this risk was attributable to the heme-iron content in poultry.

【4】Pediatrics:Children who sleep an hour less are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes

In a study recently published on Pediatrics, researchers from St George’s, University of London found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risks for type 2 diabetes, as well as higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

The NHS Choices recommended sleep duration for a 10-year-old is 10 hours per day. So a child would have a higher risk if getting just one hour less. According to Prof. Christopher G. Owen who led this research, these findings suggest increasing sleep duration at early age matters more than during adulthood and could offer a simple approach to reducing levels of body fat and type 2 diabetes risk.

The study titled Sleep Duration and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes also confirmed prior research that has shown an association between shorter sleep duration and higher levels of body fat. While in this study, researchers analyzed the body measurements, blood sample results and questionnaire data from 4,525 children of multi-ethnic descent, aged 9 to 10 years, in England. The results show that children who slept longer had lower body weight and lower levels of fat mass, and meanwhile sleep duration was also inversely related to insulin, insulin resistance and blood glucose.

【5】Another Risk Factor- Screen time linked to diabetes

Daily screen time of three or more hours is linked to several risk factors associated with the development of diabetes in children, according to a study by St George’s, University of London.

Both adiposity (which describes total body fat) and insulin resistance (which occurs when cells fail to respond to insulin) were influenced by long hours of watching television and using computers.

The study has been published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood. The researcher Dr. Claire Nightingale says, “Our findings suggest that reducing screen time may be beneficial in reducing type 2 diabetes risk factors. This is particularly relevant, given rising levels of type 2 diabetes, the early emergence of type 2 diabetes risk, and recent trends suggesting screen-related activities are increasing in childhood.”

The researchers based their findings on a sample of nearly 4500 nine- to 10-year-old pupils from 200 primary schools in London, Birmingham, and Leicester. After being asked about their daily screen time to include TV, computers, and games consoles, the children were assessed for a series of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, including blood fats, insulin resistance, fasting blood glucose levels, blood pressure and body fat.

【6】Moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the diabetes risk

Frequent alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of diabetes, according to a new study published in Diabetologia.

Previous studies have consistently suggested that moderate alcohol consumption may lower risk of diabetes compared with abstention, whilst excessive alcohol drinking will cause greater risks. However, previous studies examining the role of drinking patterns in relation to diabetes risk have given inconsistent findings, and studies on the effects of particular types of beverage are likewise inconclusive.

The present study, by Professor Janne Tolstrup and colleagues from the National Institute of Public Health of the University of Southern Denmark, examined the effects of drinking frequency and specific beverage type on diabetes risk. They collected data from the Danish Health Examination Survey (DAHNES) from 2007-2008 and followed up in the next 4 years as to whether diabetes occurred.

【7】Can fish oil lower diabetes risk?

Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

The pregnant rats were fed either a high-fat diet to make them overweight, or a standard diet, and half from each group were also given fresh fish oil. In the offspring of the high-fat group, the fish oil treatment improved the way insulin works, which is protective against diabetes.

“This is exciting,” says Dr. Ben Albert, who led the research. “Because it raises the question: if overweight women take fresh fish oil in pregnancy, will it lower the risk of developing diabetes for their children later?” But he cautions against pregnant women taking fish oil in spite of this finding. “The same benefit has not yet been shown in humans, and our earlier study shows New Zealanders cannot be sure that the fish oil they buy is fresh or not.”

【8】Cell Metabol: Immune system killer cells increase risk of diabetes

More than half of the German population suffers obesity problems. One effect of obesity is to chronically activate the immune system, putting it under continuous stress. Researchers in Jens Brüning’s team at the Max-Planck-Institute for Metabolism Research and at the University Hospital Cologne have discovered a subpopulation of immune cells in obese mice and humans that are involved in the development of diabetes. If this immune cell subpopulation could be specifically eliminated in humans, overweight people might be less likely to develop diabetes. The findings have been published in Cell Metabolism.

The rise of obesity in German population has resulted in more diabetes and stroke patients. In addition, cancer rates are also increasing, as one effect of obesity is to chronically activate the immune system.

Scientists therefore decided to study how the immune system responds to obesity and how related complications arise. This research brought their attention to a subpopulation of immune cells, the so-called natural killer (NK) cells. Normally the task of NK cells is to fight against virus-infected or malignant cells. In obese mice, however, different genes are activated in a subgroup of NK cells compared to NK cells of normal-weight animals. This specific NK cell subgroup is involved in the increased activation of the immune system leading to more insulin resistance – the precursor of diabetes.

【9】Alert: Eating at late night raises risk of diabetes and heart attack

It is a well-known fact that eating late will lead to gain in weight. Now new findings suggest it also increases risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

A team of US researchers found eating later raises boosts in glucose and insulin levels, which are implicated in diabetes, based on a report in Daily Mail.

The findings emerged from a study by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, further confirms that eating late at night has a host of negative health effects. And in line with previous studies, the research discovered late-night meals caused people to gain weight by reducing the body’s ability to burn fat. In addition, late-night meals also raise cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, both which can increase your risk of heart disease.

【10】PLoS Med: Fresh fruit consumption lowers risk of diabetes and diabetic complications

In an article recently published in PLOS Medicine, researchers from the University of Oxford reported that greater consumption of fresh fruit could lower incidence of diabetes, as well as reduced occurrence of complications in people with diabetes, in a Chinese population.

Although the health benefits of diets that includes fresh fruit and vegetables are already well-established, the sugar contained in fruit has led to uncertainties about associated risks of diabetes and of vascular complications of the disease. In this study, Huaidong Du and colleagues studied nearly 500,000 people participating in the China Kadoorie Biobank over about 7 years of follow-up, documenting new cases of diabetes and recording the occurrence of vascular disease and death in people with pre-existing diabetes.

The researchers found that people with more consumption of fresh fruit had a lower risk of developing diabetes in comparison with other participants (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.93), which corresponds to an estimated 0.2% reduction in the absolute risk of diabetes over 5 years. In people with diabetes, higher consumption of fresh fruit was associated with a lower risk of mortality (aHR 0.83, 95% CI 0.74-0.93 per 100g fruit/d), corresponding to an absolute decrease in risk of 1.9% at 5 years, and with lower risks of microvascular and macrovascular complications.