Lots of low-fat food is better than small portions of high-fat food

Dutch research has shown that a diet of low-fat products is better than smaller portions of normal high-fat food for preventing diabetes in obese people. Mice put on a low-fat diet were more sensitive to insulin than mice that received the same amount of energy in the form of high-fat food.

Martin Muurling put obese mice on different diets in which the total energy intake and the final body weight were the same. He then studied the effect of these diets on insulin sensitivity.

Mice that received just low-fat products were more sensitive to insulin than mice that ate small portions of high fat food. A low-fat diet is, therefore, a more effective remedy for diabetes than eating less calories.

Muurling also discovered that in mice, the consumption of fish oil had no positive effects whatsoever on reduced insulin sensitivity. From this he concluded that a diet with fish oil cannot prevent or remedy diabetes in the case of somebody who is already less sensitive to insulin due to a high-fat diet.

Clinically obese people sometimes suffer from a certain form of diabetes, type II diabetes mellitus. This is because far more fatty acids are released from the adipose tissue during obesity. These fatty acids can reduce the functioning of the beta cells in the pancreas as well as the sensitivity of various tissues to insulin.

Fat accumulation in adipose tissue is less harmful than fat accumulation in organs such as the liver and muscles. Treatment methods that lead to a reduction of fat accumulation in the liver and muscles might also remedy type II diabetes mellitus in obese patients.

In diabetics, the regulation of the blood glucose level and the transport of glucose from the blood to tissue cells are disrupted. This is due to either an inadequate production of insulin or the insulin available not being effective enough. Obesity and type II diabetes mellitus will probably be the health problems of the 21st century, as the number of obese people has risen sharply over the last few decades.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

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Sonja Jacobs NWO

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