Take a look in the mirror, what do you see? An apple, a pear? Obesity is a growing problem in Europe and currently one of the main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. Scientists have suggested that the type of fat in your diet may have an effect on how it is distributed in the body, which in turn could be associated with a stronger risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
A European-funded project in Toulouse, France, investigated the influence of fat distribution, along with other genetic and environmental factors, on the development of heart disease and diabetes.
Scientists suggest that if you have some extra weight, the place where the body fat accumulates is important. Excess abdominal fat, the so-called 'apple-shaped body' especially common in men, is, they claim, a stronger risk factor for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease than fat tissue on thighs and buttocks, the 'pear shaped body', more common in women.
For the study, groups of obese and diabetic volunteers ate diets of different fat composition: some of the subjects ate mainly animal fat and the others mainly vegetable fat.
The animal fat diet was rich in saturated fatty acids, whereas the vegetable fat diet was rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. The results revealed that substituting saturated animal fat with polyunsaturated vegetable fat changed abdominal fat distribution and improved insulin sensitivity. This may play a role in the development of diabetes, especially Type 2, (which used to be known as adult-onset diabetes).
The researchers also looked into the role of genes in the development of heart disease and diabetes. They found that in obese subjects, the metabolism of fat tissue differs from that in normal-weight subjects.
For further information about the study contact the project co-ordinator: Dr. Dominique Langin, INSERM U317, Institut Louis Bugnard, CHU Rangueil, 31403 Toulouse, France.