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Session 4: CVD, diabetes and cancer Diet, insulin resistance and diabetes: the right (pro)portions: Symposium on ‘Dietary management of disease’

  • Michelle Spence (a1), Michelle C. McKinley (a2) and Steven J. Hunter (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 08 December 2009

Excess energy intake and positive energy balance are associated with the development of obesity and insulin resistance, which is a key feature underlying the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes. It is possible that dietary macronutrient intake may also be important, in particular increased levels of sugar and fat. High-fat energy-dense diets contribute to energy excess and obesity. Fat type is also a factor, with evidence suggesting that saturated fat intake is linked to insulin resistance. However, controversy exists about the role of carbohydrate in the development of diabetes. Epidemiological studies suggest that the risk of diabetes is unrelated to the total amount of carbohydrate, but that fibre intake and glycaemic load are important. Common dietary advice for the prevention of diabetes often advocates complex carbohydrates and restriction of simple carbohydrates; however, sugars may not be the main contributor to glycaemic load. Evidence continues to emerge in relation to the influence of dietary sugars intake on insulin resistance. In broader dietary terms fruit and vegetable intake may influence insulin resistance, possibly related to increased intake of fibre and micronutrients or displacement of other food types. There is also considerable debate about the most effective diet and appropriate macronutrient composition to facilitate weight loss. Recent evidence suggests comparable effects of diets with varying macronutrient profiles on weight loss, which is predominantly related to energy restriction. However, based on the results of diabetes prevention trials focusing on lifestyle measures, evidence favours low-fat diets as the preferred approach for weight loss and diabetes prevention.

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*Corresponding author: Dr Steven J. Hunter, fax +44 28 9031 0111, email
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