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Int J Circumpolar Health. 2010 Sep;69(4):344-51. Epub 2010 Aug 18.

Individual saturated fatty acids are associated with different components of insulin resistance and glucose metabolism: the GOCADAN study.

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  • 1GOCADAN Department, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Nome, Alaska 99762, USA. soebbesson@alaska.edu



Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of saturated fatty acids (FAs) are on the rise among Alaska Inuits. This analysis, based on a cross-sectional study, explores the possible associations of saturated FA content in red blood cells (RBCs) and parameters of glucose metabolism in a sample of Alaska Natives.


The sample included 343 women and 282 men aged 35-74. Statistical analyses explored the associations of selected RBC (myristic, palmitic and stearic acids) FAs with fasting glucose (plasma), fasting insulin (plasma), 2h glucose (2-hour glucose tolerance test), 2h insulin and homeostasis model assessment (HOMA) index. The models included sex and glucose metabolism status as fixed factors and age, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, physical activity (METS) and FA content in RBCs as covariates. Measures of insulin, glucose and HOMA index were used as dependent variables.


Myristic acid was positively associated with fasting insulin (β=0.47, p<0.001), 2h insulin (β=0.53, p=0.02) and HOMA index (β=0.455, p<0.001). Palmitic acid was associated with 2h glucose (β=2.3×10(-2), p<0.001) and 2h insulin (β=5.6×10(-2), p=0.002) and stearic acid was associated with fasting glucose (β=4.8×10(-3), p=0.006).


These results strongly support the hypothesis that saturated fatty acids are associated with insulin resistance and glucose intolerance and that saturated fatty acids are significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

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