Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Could Eating Certain Types of Fat Help Teens Control Diabetes?

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

July 5, 2000 -- Eating monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil instead of saturated fats like butter could help teenagers with type 1 diabetes control their disease, as long as they keep being careful about calories, a study from Australia suggests.

One thing the Australian researchers found was that getting teens to stick to a diet plan -- any diet plan -- is difficult at best. But they found that even the small, incremental change of substituting monounsaturated fats for animal fats improved their conditions.

The idea of increasing monounsaturated fat began with type 2 diabetics. Their blood fat and sugar levels have been found to improve when they consume a diet higher in monounsaturated fat and lower in carbohydrates. This works in type 2 diabetics because of a condition known as insulin resistance, a phrase that has been much touted lately with regard to the high-protein diet fad.

And there may indeed be something to the idea that reducing carbohydrates can help people who have trouble controlling their blood sugar -- by improving the efficiency of insulin, whether it occurs naturally in the body or is given through injection.

Experts had not thought that type 1 diabetics had this sort of insulin resistance. But Stephenie Lucas, MD, tells WebMD that the Australian researchers might be on to something. This so-called "syndrome-x," or insulin-resistant condition, seems to respond well to a high-fat diet.

"We've always thought of type 1 [diabetes] being an antibody disease and type 2 being more insulin resistant. What this [study] is saying is that insulin resistance also occurs in type 1, especially during puberty," says Lucas, an endocrinologist at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. Lucas was not a part of the Australian study.

She explains that this could be because teens produce certain hormones, such as growth, adrenaline, and sex hormones, at a greater intensity, and these substances may interfere with insulin's effects.

Added to this is the fact that even teens with diabetes may have diets high in carbohydrates and saturated fat, making blood-sugar control difficult.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner