Eating a diet rich in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, found in bean and seed oils such as soybean and sunflower oils and in nuts, could significantly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a study has showed.
The findings, published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, showed that individuals who had the highest blood level of linoleic acid -- the major omega-6 fat -- were 35 per cent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who had the least amount.
Linoleic acid is not formed in the body and can only be obtained from the diet.
"Our findings suggest that a simple change in diet might protect people from developing type 2 diabetes which has reached alarming levels around the world," said lead author Jason Wu, from The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney
For the study, the team analysed data from 20 studies involving 39,740 adults from 10 countries who were laboratory tested for levels of two key omega-6 markers -- linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.
Linoleic acid was associated with lower risk, while levels of arachidonic acid were not significantly associated with either higher or lower risk of diabetes.
Some previous studies have raised concerns that omega-6 may have negative health effects, such as inflammation leading to the increased risk of chronic diseases.
Yet those who had the highest levels of blood omega-6 markers had a much lower chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, the researchers noted.
"Some scientists have theorised that omega-6 is harmful to health," Wu said.
"But based on this study, we have demonstrated little evidence for harms, and indeed found that the major omega-6 fat is linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes."