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Diabetologia. 2001 Mar;44(3):312-9.

Substituting dietary saturated for monounsaturated fat impairs insulin sensitivity in healthy men and women: The KANWU Study.

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Unit for Clinical Nutrition Research, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences/Geriatrics, University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden.



The amount and quality of fat in the diet could be of importance for development of insulin resistance and related metabolic disorders. Our aim was to determine whether a change in dietary fat quality alone could alter insulin action in humans.


The KANWU study included 162 healthy subjects chosen at random to receive a controlled, isoenergetic diet for 3 months containing either a high proportion of saturated (SAFA diet) or monounsaturated (MUFA diet) fatty acids. Within each group there was a second assignment at random to supplements with fish oil (3.6 g n-3 fatty acids/d) or placebo.


Insulin sensitivity was significantly impaired on the saturated fatty acid diet (-10%, p = 0.03) but did not change on the monounsaturated fatty acid diet (+2%, NS) (p = 0.05 for difference between diets). Insulin secretion was not affected. The addition of n-3 fatty acids influenced neither insulin sensitivity nor insulin secretion. The favourable effects of substituting a monounsaturated fatty acid diet for a saturated fatty acid diet on insulin sensitivity were only seen at a total fat intake below median (37E%). Here, insulin sensitivity was 12.5% lower and 8.8% higher on the saturated fatty acid diet and monounsaturated fatty acid diet respectively (p = 0.03). Low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) increased on the saturated fatty acid diet (+4.1%, p < 0.01) but decreased on the monounsaturated fatty acid diet (MUFA) (-5.2, p < 0.001), whereas lipoprotein (a) [Lp(a)] increased on a monounsaturated fatty acid diet by 12% (p < 0.001).


A change of the proportions of dietary fatty acids, decreasing saturated fatty acid and increasing monounsaturated fatty acid, improves insulin sensitivity but has no effect on insulin secretion. A beneficial impact of the fat quality on insulin sensitivity is not seen in individuals with a high fat intake (> 37E%).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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