, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 805-817

First online:

Diet and risk of Type II diabetes: the role of types of fat and carbohydrate

  • F. B. HuAffiliated withDepartment of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachussetts, USA
  • , R. M. van DamAffiliated withDepartment of Chronic Diseases Epidemiology, National Institute of Public Health and Environment, Bilthoven, the Netherlands
  • , S. LiuAffiliated withDivision of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachussetts, USA


Although diet and nutrition are widely believed to play an important part in the development of Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus, specific dietary factors have not been clearly defined. Much controversy exists about the relations between the amount and types of dietary fat and carbohydrate and the risk of diabetes. In this article, we review in detail the current evidence regarding the associations between different types of fats and carbohydrates and insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. Our findings indicate that a higher intake of polyunsaturated fat and possibly long-chain n-3 fatty acids could be beneficial, whereas a higher intake of saturated fat and trans-fat could adversely affect glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. In dietary practice, exchanging nonhydrogenated polyunsaturated fat for saturated and trans-fatty acids could appreciably reduce risk of Type II diabetes. In addition, a low-glycaemic index diet with a higher amount of fiber and minimally processed whole grain products reduces glycaemic and insulinaemic responses and lowers the risk of Type II diabetes. Dietary recommendations to prevent Type II diabetes should focus more on the quality of fat and carbohydrate in the diet than quantity alone, in addition to balancing total energy intake with expenditure to avoid overweight and obesity. [Diabetologia (2001) 44: 805–817]

Keywords Type II diabetes diet nutrition dietary fatty acids carbohydrates glycemic index insulin resistance obesity