The primary fatty acid in soybean oil is protective against diabetes
Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 polyunsaturated fat. It is the primary omega-6 fat in the diet and the primary fatty acid in soybeans. New evidence indicates consuming linoleic acid is protective against diabetes
Health authorities recognize that linoleic acid lowers blood cholesterol levels and as a result, risk of coronary heart disease. The cholesterol-lowering effect of linoleic acid is acknowledged by the American Heart Association and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. Furthermore, soybean oil was recently awarded a health claim for coronary heart disease based on its ability to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Less is known about the role that linoleic acid may have in protecting against other chronic diseases such as diabetes. The incidence of diabetes has increased dramatically over the past 20 years in large part because of the skyrocketing rates of obesity. Most people with diabetes, about 90%, over overweight.
To gain insight into the relationship between linoleic acid and diabetes an international team of researchers conducted a comprehensive statistical analysis of 20 different population studies from ten countries.1 This analysis involved nearly 40,000 participants. All of the participants were free of diabetes at enrollment. During the period the participants were followed, 4,347 individuals developed diabetes.
When the investigators looked at levels of linoleic acid in the body, such as in adipose tissue, it was found that those with the highest levels were 35% less likely to develop diabetes. These findings strongly suggest consuming linoleic acid will protect against this disease.
This new analysis is especially noteworthy not only because of its size but because the researchers relied upon levels of linoleic acid in the body as the primary metric, rather than the amount of linoleic acid the study participants reported eating. Accurately assessing dietary intake is very difficult.
This new research indicates that dietary sources of linoleic acid, such as soybean oil, will not only lower risk of coronary heart disease but will protect against diabetes as well.
- Wu JHY, Marklund M, Imamura F, et al. Omega-6 fatty acid biomarkers and incident type 2 diabetes: pooled analysis of individual-level data for 39 740 adults from 20 prospective cohort studies. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology. 2017.