WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A common type of fat found in red meats and cheeses may prevent diabetes, according to a research team from Purdue University and The Pennsylvania State University.
This information could lead to new drugs to help fight diabetes, or to improved dietary strategies to manage diabetes, the researchers say.
The study found that conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid known to scientists as "CLA," can prevent the onset of diabetes in laboratory animals, at least in the short term. The researchers say CLA appears to work as well as a new class of diabetes-fighting drugs, the thiazolidinediones, or TZDs.
Martha Belury, Purdue assistant professor of foods and nutrition, says: "If you inherit a genetic predisposition to adult-onset diabetes and you're obese and inactive, then you may well develop this disease. Our study suggests that CLA may help normalize or reduce blood glucose levels and prevent diabetes."
Adult-onset diabetes is the most common form of the disease, and it also is known as Type II or noninsulin-dependent diabetes. It affects about 15 million Americans, half of whom do not know that they have the disease because the initial symptoms can be so mild. (These symptoms may include hard-to-heal infections, blurred vision, tingling in the hands or feet, or dry, itchy skin.) Type II diabetes is caused by the body's inability to use insulin well, which causes a buildup of sugar in the blood. If left untreated, Type II diabetes can result in kidney problems, amputation of limbs, blindness, coronary heart disease or strokes.
The research on CLA's ability to control Type II diabetes was published in the March 27 issue of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications and will be presented at the American Diabetes Association annual meeting in Chicago on June 14. The research was funded by the National Cattleman's Beef Association, the Purdue Office of Research Programs, and Penn State.